Environment Secretary Therese Coffey has defended Rishi Sunak’s decision not to attend the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt saying it was not one of the “big political” summits.
Ms Coffey said it was “standard practice” for world leaders to attend the big political gatherings every five years, adding that the summits in between tended to focus on more detailed discussions.
“The big push happened last year in Glasgow,” she told Sky News, adding that she and other government ministers would be attending the summit in Egypt next month. “
Traditionally, the United Nations has required countries to submit climate targets every five years including ahead of the Glasgow summit last year where world leaders gathered to pledge how they would contribute to action on climate change.
However, as the climate crisis progresses more urgency and emphasis are being put on each annual summit with countries agreeing in Glasgow to update and strengthen their climate targets in 2022, rather than waiting another five years.
The United Nations warned on Thursday that the planet was headed for “catastrophe” as there is “no credible” pathway in place to rein in global temperature rise to 1.5C.
The rising importance of the annual meetings was put to Ms Coffey by Sky News, who responded that the summits have always been important, and acknowledged it was an important year for the environment.
Climate, she said, remained “very much a priority” for the new government, despite climate minister Graham Stuart and Cop26 President Alok Sharma being excluded from the Cabinet and Mr Sunak deciding not to attend Cop27.
It comes as President Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry said he thought it would be “very powerful” if King Charles could attend the summit in Egypt.
Buckingham Palace confirmed earlier this month that the king would not attend the meeting after reports swirled that Liz Truss had advised him against going.