Putin's war on Ukraine 'is reason for faster climate action'

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tells world leaders Britain is keeping its promises on climate action

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers his national statement at the Cop27 summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on Monday. Bloomberg
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used his speech at the Cop27 summit to say that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and rising energy prices are reasons to “act faster” on climate change.

Mr Sunak said it was morally right to deliver on promises in tackling climate change, but also economically right, reducing energy dependency and providing new jobs and growth.

At the start of the summit, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the world was “on the highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”.

“We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing, with greenhouse gases still increasing and temperatures still rising," Mr Guterres said.

He said that while the world’s attention is gripped by the war in Ukraine — prompting energy, food and cost of living crises — and other conflicts: “Climate change is on a different timeline and a different scale.”

“It is the defining issue of our age," Mr Guterres said. "It is the central challenge of our century. It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner.”

“Today’s crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing.”

MBZ attends Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh - in pictures

The latest round of talks comes amid high geopolitical tensions sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, worsening extreme weather and calls for rich nations to provide finance for the loss and damage in poor countries as a result of the climate crisis.

Mr Sunak said the UK was keeping its promises on climate action, which include cutting emissions by 68 per cent by 2030 and £11.6 billion ($13.4bn) for poorer countries to tackle the crisis, including tripling funding for adaptation to £1.5bn.

“Climate security goes hand in hand with energy security," he said in his speech to the leaders' summit.

“Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine and rising energy prices across the world are not a reason to go slow on climate change.

World leaders arrive on day two of Cop27 - in pictures

“They are a reason to act faster, because diversifying our energy supplies by investing in renewables is precisely the way to insure ourselves against the risks of energy dependency.

“It’s also a fantastic source of new jobs and growth.”

Mr Sunak’s attendance at the gathering in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, alongside leaders such as US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, marks his first outing on the international stage since becoming prime minister last month.

In a packed day at the conference, he also held bilateral meetings, including with Italy’s new far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen amid ongoing tension over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The opening day of Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh - in pictures

But on the climate issue, he faces criticism over the government’s decision to issue more licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and its continued opposition to new onshore wind.

The UK is not on track to meet its carbon-reduction goals into the 2030s, and is under pressure over its delivery of climate finance commitments.

Friends of the Earth’s international climate campaigner Rachel Kennerley said the UK government was failing to deliver adequate finance to support vulnerable nations, and was still helping to fund a damaging gas project in Mozambique, as well as allowing new North Sea oil and gas schemes.

Ms Kennerley said that ministers should lift barriers to onshore wind and introduce home insulation, paid for with a bigger windfall tax on energy companies.

Mariana Paoli, from Christian Aid, said: “What is needed to truly help those facing the worst impacts of the climate crisis is a fund to compensate them for the permanent loss and damage they are experiencing.”

Ms Paoli said the UK had been quiet on the issue.

Our children's future hinges on climate action, Sheikh Mohamed says - video

Funding for loss and damage from climate change, such as destruction of crops, buildings and infrastructure in poorer countries, is now an item on the official agenda for the talks.

It is a key demand for some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, which are on the frontline of climate effects but have done least to cause the crisis, although developed countries have historically been reluctant to discuss it.

In his speech to world leaders, Mr Guterres warned that “loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug. It is a moral imperative”, calling for concrete results on the issue at Cop27.

He also called for a pact between developed and developing countries, in which all nations make an extra effort to reduce emissions, and richer countries provide financial assistance to help emerging economies tackle climate change, and to end dependence on fossil fuels.

Mr Guterres said the US and China had particular responsibilities to join efforts to make the pact a reality, saying humanity had a choice to “co-operate or perish”.

Cop27 must be the place to close the credibility gap, says UN chief Guterres - video

Updated: November 07, 2022, 8:58 PM