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King and Sunak to attend Cop28 as leaders assess bids to tackle climate change

The King and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are attending the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai (Daniel Leal/PA)
The King and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are attending the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai (Daniel Leal/PA)

The King and the Prime Minister will represent the UK at a major climate summit as nations take stock of whether efforts to limit global warming are working.

Rishi Sunak will push for an “era of action” at the Cop28 climate conference as he highlights the UK’s “pragmatic” approach in reaching net-zero goals after his rollback of ambitions at home.

The British leader will seek to burnish his green credentials as he attends the summit in Dubai on Friday, announcing cash for projects to halt deforestation and accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

Also attending are Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron and the King, who will deliver an opening address in the Middle Eastern city.

Charles, who held engagements in Dubai on Thursday, is expected to tell leaders and climate delegates that he hopes the gathering will be a “critical turning point towards genuine transformational action”.

Sir Keir Starmer is also heading to the gathering in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to stress that Britain would be open to green investment under a Labour government and position himself as a prime minister in waiting.

World leaders are meeting at the UN’s annual climate talks to advance progress on reducing emissions and assess the progress made on the 2015 Paris Agreement targets.

Eight years ago in France, countries agreed 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 that countries will assess progress towards this goal in what is being called the “global stocktake”.

Cop28 summit
Lord David Cameron is attending Cop28 (Andrew Matthews/PA)

It is unlikely to be positive given the UN has the Earth on track for a catastrophic 3C increase by the end of the century under emissions reduction policies currently in place.

The UN wants countries to rectify this policy gap and rapidly reduce fossil fuel use — the main cause of rising emissions.

As part of efforts to meet the Paris target, the UK Government will commit £1.6 billion for international climate finance projects over the course of the summit.

That includes up to £500 million for a programme tackling the causes of forest destruction, £316 million for energy innovation projects around the world, and a contribution of up to £60 million for loss and damage.

Mr Sunak’s attendance comes after he scaled back a host of pledges designed to help the UK reach net zero by 2050, vowed to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves by granting new North Sea drilling licences, and faced accusations from former colleagues of being uninterested in the environment.

In September, he delayed the ban on new diesel and petrol cars to 2035, watered down plans to strip out polluting gas and oil boilers, and scrapped the requirement for energy efficiency upgrades for homes, arguing that hitting climate targets should not burden the public.

State Opening of Parliament
Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are attending the UN climate talks in Dubai (Hannah McKay/PA)

The Prime Minister committed to attend the climate conference after criticism of his initial decision not to go to Cop27 in 2022 led to a last-minute U-turn.

Before travelling to Dubai, Mr Sunak said: “The world made ambitious pledges at previous Cop summits to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. But the time for pledges is now over – this is the era for action.

“We know that the technologies and innovations we need to protect the planet are at our fingertips, from the mighty offshore wind farms powering the UK to the solar energy transforming electricity in Africa.

“The transition to net zero should make us all safer and better off. It must benefit, not burden, ordinary families.

“The UK has led the way in taking pragmatic, long-term decisions at home – and at Cop28 we will lead international efforts to protect the world’s forests, turbocharge renewable energy and leverage the full weight of private finance.”

The Prime Minister is “clear-eyed” about the challenges on a global scale of meeting the 1.5C goal, his spokesman said, singling out China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, for criticism.

“The challenge is all countries – and that includes China, which is obviously vitally important – have to take action,” the official said.

Mr Sunak will also use the trip to discuss the Israel-Hamas war and call for de-escalation in the wider Middle East.

The location of this year’s climate talks has prompted scepticism among many campaigners as the UAE is one of the world’s chief oil producers.

Cop28 president Sultan al-Jaber, who is also chief executive of state oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, has been accused of seeking to use the conference to strike oil and gas deals, something he denies.

Sir Keir, suggested by polls to be on track to take the keys to No 10 at the next general election, will be “banging the drum for Britain” and meeting world leaders and foreign investors at the conference.

“Labour will be fighting for Britain, to bring in jobs and investment that will cut bills, make us energy-independent and tackle the climate crisis,” his spokesman said.

Cop28 summit
Charles has been holding engagements in Dubai since Thursday (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“We see the transition to net zero as a vital opportunity for the country.”

Friday will see the King give an opening address at the Expo City Dubai conference venue in which he is set to say the “hope of the world” rests on the decisions taken.

He is also expected to argue that, despite some progress, repeated warning signs of climate change are being ignored, bringing devastating consequences for lives and livelihoods across the Commonwealth and the globe.

It is believed he will call for meaningful action and outline five key questions which he hopes the summit will address, adding: “The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth.”

The address will be the monarch’s first at the conference as King, having previously opened Cop26 in Glasgow in 2021 and Cop21 in Paris in 2015.

Cop28 opened on Thursday and runs until December 12.