The Agra-born Sharma, who lost his position as Cabinet minister in Sunak’s first reshuffle, told The Sunday Times: “I’m disappointed that the PM is not going. I understand that he’s got a huge in-tray of domestic issues that he has to deal with. But going to COP27 would allow for engagement with other world leaders. I think it does send a signal — if the PM were to go — about our renewed commitment on this issue.”
Sharma cited Australia’s example. “If you look at what happened in the Australian elections (this summer), one of the reasons that the Conservatives didn’t win is because people didn’t feel they took this issue seriously enough.”
Many world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, will take part in the summit at Sharm el-Sheikh. Even former UK PM Boris Johnson is reportedly planning to attend.
No. 10 said Sunak will not be attending the summit from 6 to 18 November as he has other pressing domestic commitments, including preparations for the autumn statement — outlining the government’s plans for the economy — which is due to come in the middle of the COP27 meet.
A government spokesperson said: “The UK will be fully represented by senior ministers, including the foreign, business and environment secretaries as well as COP president Alok Sharma.”
King Charles, a passionate environmentalist, will not be attending either, owing to advice he received from former UK PM Liz Truss. Sunak has not changed this advice.
The King will instead host a reception at Buckingham Palace for business leaders, decision makers and NGOs on 4 November.
Conservative MP John Redwood tweeted: “Alok Sharma should be urging China, the USA and India who produce more than half the world’s CO 2 to match the UK’s reductions. He is wrong to criticise the PM who has work to do here rather than adding to international jet travel.”