The environment secretary has defended Rishi Sunak’s decision not to attend COP27, saying the “big political” summits take place every five years.

Therese Coffey told Sky News “the big push happened last year in Glasgow” and she was not aware of President Biden or President Macron attending this year’s climate conference in Egypt.

Last year the UK hosted the COP26 summit in Glasgow, and Boris Johnson, who was prime minister at the time, stressed the need to act and said it was a “one minute to midnight moment”.

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The Washington Post has reported that the US President will travel to COP27, in a boost for the gathering and its chances of securing action over the climate crisis.

Mr Sunak has been accused of a “massive failure of leadership” after deciding not to attend the event in Sharm El-Sheikh next month. His predecessor Liz Truss had planned to go.

Ms Coffey suggested that it was standard practice for heads of state not to go the conferences.

She told Sky News “other senior ministers, including myself, will be going to Egypt”, adding: “Normally the big Cops tend to be every five years.”

She added: “The United Kingdom hosted that last year where we had attendance from many members of the royal family. But in between, it tends to be more of, I’m not going to say low key, but not quite the same level.” of heads of state and prime ministers attending.”

While Ms Coffey said several ministers would attend the summit, she was unclear if King Charles would.

Ms Truss had reportedly told the King, an environmental campaigner, to stay away, according to The Sunday Times.

Ms Coffey told Sky News: “I think it’s up to him. I know that he takes an interest in this particular issue, but it’s up to him.”

Ms Coffey said that the climate issue is “very much a priority” for the new government, although the climate minister Graham Stuart and COP26 president Alok Sharma were stripped of their cabinet seats in this week’s reshuffle.

She later said that Mr Sunak was “prioritizing” the autumn budget which he delayed to November 17.

In an interview with LBC radio she said: “The UK continues to show global leadership as opposed to just a gathering of people in Egypt.”

‘Massive failure of leadership’

Downing Street has said the prime minister has “other pressing domestic commitments” which will prevent him from attending the climate conference, and denied the snub signaled a downgrading of climate change as a priority.

The Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Britain showing up to work with world leaders is an opportunity to grasp. Not an event to shun,” he said.

The shadow climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, called the decision as a “massive failure of leadership.”

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, also said the move suggests Mr Sunak does not take climate change “seriously enough”, saying it is like “a runner failing to turn up with the baton at a crucial stage of the relay”.

And the Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “The new PM’s decision not to attend COP27 makes a mockery of any Government claims on continued climate leadership – and what a shameful way to end the UK’s Cop presidency.”

ReadMore:
Egypt urges Sunak not to ditch UK’s climate pledges
King Charles will not attend COP27 in Egypt, Buckingham Palace says

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As world leaders prepare for the COP27 climate conference in Egypt, just how well are their previous commitments holding up?

World leaders made a series of climate pledges at COP26 culminating in an agreement to strengthen emissions targets for 2030 by the end of next year.

Ending and reversing deforestation, cutting methane emissions and the journey to net zero were all agreed at the Glasgow summit last year.

Government data shows that the UK is projected to emit nearly twice the amount of pollution as it should do under its 2030s goals.

The figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy were released last week. Ms Coffey admitted she had not seen data. “I’m literally just a couple of days into my post,” she told the BBC

She added: “I’m very confident that we will continue to try and take actions to reduce emissions.”

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