Rishi Sunak promises to lead global green energy push at Cop27

UK PM says Britain will become a 'clean energy superpower'

King Charles III greets Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to a reception for world leaders, business figures, environmentalists and NGOs, at Buckingham Palace, London, ahead of the Cop27 Summit.  November 4, 2022.  Jonathan Brady / Pool via REUTERS
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UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has promised to make Britain a “clean energy superpower” as he prepares for the Cop27 climate summit.

Mr Sunak said he would put Britain at the head of efforts to replace Russian gas with cheaper renewable energy.

He said he would tell leaders at Cop27 in Egypt not to backslide on commitments made when Britain hosted the Cop26 summit last year.

Cop26 president Alok Sharma will on Sunday formally hand over that role to Egypt's government.

It came as US climate envoy John Kerry said the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine had added difficulty to the green transition.

“Because of the war in Ukraine, because of the inflation, because of the challenge of energy in Europe particularly, there are hurdles,” Mr Kerry told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday.

“There are people within the fossil fuel industry who are using the crisis in Ukraine, frankly, as leverage to be able to say, well, we need to be pumping a lot more.”

Like other European countries, Britain has set its sights on more renewable energy output since the war began, while also moving to extract more oil and gas.

Mr Sunak took a step back from the drive for more fossil fuels by cancelling plans to revive fracking, but more North Sea drilling licences are planned.

Nonetheless, he said Russia's manipulation of energy markets had “reinforced the importance of ending our dependence on fossil fuels”.

Preparations for Cop27 — in pictures

“Fighting climate change is not just a moral good — is it fundamental to our future prosperity and security,” Mr Sunak said.

“We need to move further and faster to transition to renewable energy, and I will ensure the UK is at the forefront of this global movement as a clean energy superpower.”

Mr Sunak had said he would skip Cop27 while he dealt with the economic turmoil he inherited from predecessor Liz Truss.

But under pressure from MPs, including in his own Conservative Party, he announced this week that he would travel to Sharm El Sheikh after all.

King Charles III, a lifelong environmentalist, is not attending the summit. He instead hosted a Buckingham Palace reception for business leaders and policymakers, including Mr Sunak.

Mr Sunak will host an event on deforestation at Cop27, after more than 100 countries pledged in Glasgow to turn the tide on damaging land use.

The two-week summit is meant to rally further action to reduce carbon emissions and keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5ºC about pre-industrial levels in sight.

Britain's climate negotiator Alok Sharma will formally hand over the Cop presidency on Sunday. Getty

Rich countries will once again feel pressure from developing nations, especially in Africa, to provide more funding for environmental damage already taking place.

Britain is expected to announce more funding for conservation in tropical rainforests and support for vulnerable countries.

Another country caught in an energy squeeze, Germany, is likewise calling for green policies to be maintained despite the energy crisis.

Germany has big ambitions for solar and wind energy but has had to reactivate old coal plants and build new gas terminals after Russian supplies were ended.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz will use Cop27 to canvass support for his “climate club” project and hold an event on green hydrogen with Egypt's president.

A German official said of the climate negotiations this week: “It’s clear that many are asking for more time because of global events.

“But in our view, the pace has to be maintained and further bold and ambitious steps have to be taken in order to reach the 1.5ºC goal.”

Updated: November 06, 2022, 3:47 AM