Rishi Sunak insists Britain is a 'leader' and can 'walk tall' at Cop28

Rishi Sunak says NO world leaders have raised alarm at Britain’s ‘reasonable’ Net Zero slowdown during Cop28 climate summit in Dubai… as he is relegated to the back row of ‘family photo’ behind Albanian PM

  • World leaders have gathered in Dubai for the COP28 summit as they try to plot a path to tackle climate change

Rishi Sunak dismissed warnings easing the Net Zero timetable has ‘diminished’ Britain’s standing today as he attended the Cop28 summit.  

At a press conference wrapping up his whistlestop appearance in Dubai, the PM insisted the rethink was ‘reasonable’ rather than ‘extreme’ and the UK is still on track to meet all its commitments.

He said none of the leaders he had seen during his morning’s visit had raised concerns about the changes, claiming they had actually been ‘grateful’ for his pioneering stance. 

Mr Sunak tried to underline the ‘constructive’ discussions by announcing a deal between Masdar and RWE to invest up to £11billion in a new wind farm at Dogger Bank.  

However, there was an awkward moment for Mr Sunak earlier, as he was left languishing at the back of the ‘family photo’ behind the Albanian prime minister Edi Rama.

As head of state, King Charles was in the front row of the group near French president Emmanuel Macron. The monarch has given a keynote speech on the environment, an issue he has campaigned on for decades. 

But the EU commission’s Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel were more prominently placed in the middle. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted Britain is still a ‘leader’ on climate change today as he attended the Cop28 summit but was delegated to the back row during the ‘family’ photo 

At a press conference wrapping up his whistlestop Dubai visit, Rishi Sunak insisted the Net Zero rethink was ‘reasonable’and the UK is still on track to meet goals

King Charles speaks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani this morning

Mr Sunak was seen in animated discussion with the King at the opening ceremony

Mr Sunak also took the opportunity for a few words with former PM Sir Tony Blair at the summit today

Mr Sunak said he had heard no complaints from fellow leaders about delaying the ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.

‘Hand on heart, 100 per cent, no – not a single leader that I have spoken to today has spoken about that,’ he said.

‘Do you know why? Because most of their targets are less ambitious than the UK’s.’

He said the 2035 date for internal combustion engine vehicles was in line with other developed countries.

It ‘demonstrates just how distorted this debate has become’ when ‘I shift a date to be in line with basically every other country and it’s somehow portrayed as some extreme measure’.

Earlier, Mr Sunak was asked at the summit how he would respond to those accusing him of not being serious about climate action. 

‘We have got an incredible track record in decarbonising in the UK, faster than any other major economy. We should be really proud of that,’ the premier said.

‘And I’ll be proud of that record at my meetings later today.’

Mr Sunak added: ‘We’re leading the world in new industries like offshore wind. We’re protecting nature at home, so we’ve got a great story to tell.’

He said other countries are ‘deeply appreciative’ of the support that they are receiving from the UK to help them with the transition.

Speaking to journalists en route to Dubai, Mr Sunak said: ‘We’ve got a better track record than any other major economy in decarbonising.

‘Any which way I look at it, we are a leader on this issue. We have been, we’re continuing to do so. So I will walk around very proudly tomorrow championing the UK’s achievements in this space.’

Mr Sunak also swiped at ‘ideological zealots’ who refused to take into account the costs on ordinary families of getting to Net Zero.

‘There are people who think we should get to net zero without any regard to the cost on ordinary families. I don’t think that’s right,’ he said.

‘I think we’ve got to be cognisant of the impact of this on ordinary families up and down the country.’

It came after Lord Goldsmith, who resigned as his environment minister accusing Mr Sunak of being ‘uninterested’ in green issues, told Sky News: ‘There’s no doubt our standing has diminished considerably in recent months.

‘The UK is just not seen by our allies – big and also small island members of the commonwealth – as a reliable or serious partner.’

Meanwhile, Downing Street has warned China that it must step up its efforts to tackle climate change.

In pointed comments, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said other countries need to do their bit to address global warming – and singled out China as ‘vitally important’. 

Mr Sunak (top row, second from left) looked a bit isolated as he lined up for the family photo in Dubai today

Mr Sunak and Emmanuel Macron were seen chatting at a climate finance summit

The PM held talks with the Emir of Qatar on the fringes of the summit in Dubai today 

Cop28 is the first time countries will assess progress towards the 2015 Paris Agreement goal

He said ‘significant action’ must be taken to ‘keep 1.5 alive’ – the goal of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5C.

Asked what Mr Sunak hopes to achieve at the climate summit, the spokesman said: ‘He is clear-eyed about the challenges on a global scale that we still face on climate change. There is some significant action that must take place to keep 1.5 alive.

‘He understands the challenges all countries – and that includes China, which is obviously vitally important – have to take action. We need to see not just commitments but real-world demonstration and action, as we have done, to make sure that this progress continues.’

Asked if the PM was frustrated China is not doing enough, the spokesman said: ‘It’s simply a matter of fact that China, given its size and economy, is a crucial part of this.’

But Mr Sunak refused to single out China today, saying: ‘Everyone collectively needs to do more to make sure that we do reduce emissions sufficiently.’

China, together with India, watered down the Cop26 climate pact in 2021 when Britain hosted the summit in Glasgow.

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries vowed to limit the average global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels and make every effort to stop it rising above 1.5C.

Cop28 is the first time countries will assess progress towards this goal in what is being called the ‘global stocktake’.

Mr Sunak’s spokesman said it would be the moment where the world ‘takes a long hard look in the mirror to see if we are delivering on the 2015 Paris Agreement’.

Mr Sunak joined world leaders in Dubai as the climate conference continued

The Prime Minister has warned China it must step up its efforts to tackle climate change

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