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Sunak wraps up 11-hour Cop28 trip with new deal for UK wind farm

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking to the media during a press conference at the Cop28 summit (PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking to the media during a press conference at the Cop28 summit (PA)

Rishi Sunak has said the UK’s impact at the Cop28 climate summit should not be measured by “hours spent” as he ended his 11-hour visit by announcing new investment for Dogger Bank wind farm.

The Prime Minister said a deal worth up to £11 billion had been struck by energy firms RWE and Masdar which will help fund what will be the world’s biggest offshore wind project.

Mr Sunak faced questions about the length of his trip to the environmental conference in Dubai, but suggested the UK’s influence should be judged instead by its material achievements.

“I wouldn’t measure our impact here by hours spent, I would measure it by the actual things that we’re doing that are making a difference,” he said.

Cop28 summit
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives in Dubai to attend the Cop28 summit (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Announcing the deal, Mr Sunak told the conference: “I’m pleased to announce a new deal between Masdar and RWE which includes a commitment to jointly invest up to £11 billion into the UK’s new wind farm at Dogger Bank, which will be the biggest in the world.

“This is a huge boost for UK renewables, creating more jobs, helping to power three million homes and increasing our energy security.”

Mr Sunak earlier announced £1.6 billion for international climate finance, including to support projects to halt deforestation and accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

But his attendance at Cop28 comes after he scaled back a host of pledges designed to help the UK reach net zero by 2050 and vowed to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves by granting new North Sea drilling licences.

Mr Sunak was asked as he flew to Dubai what he would say to those accusing him of being unserious about climate action.

“We’ve got a better track record than any other major economy in decarbonising,” he told journalists on the plane.

“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.”

Cop28 summit
The King speaks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as they attend the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit at Cop28 (Chris Jackson/PA)

Labour described Mr Sunak’s speech to Cop28 as “complacent”, and shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband accused him of being “in denial about the energy bills crisis at home and the weakening of the United Kingdom’s standing abroad in his time in office”.

“Working people are paying the price for Rishi Sunak’s climate failure, in the form of higher bills and in the awful costs this leaves our children and grandchildren,” Mr Miliband said.

“Only Labour can deliver the climate leadership that Britain needs, to cut energy bills for families, make the UK energy independent and protect the planet.”

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.”

However, Mr Sunak said the UK’s representation – from himself, Charles and Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron – “speaks again to our leadership on this issue”.

He said he was “delighted” that the King, with his “longstanding track record championing this issue”, was delivering an opening address for the fortnight of talks.

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

Mr Sunak told reporters: “I’m delighted that he’s going to be at Cop tomorrow, he’s giving a call to arms in the opening statement and … it speaks volumes about our type of leadership as a country that we’ve got our head of state there, delivering a call to arms in the opening statement which speaks volumes about the respect that he’s got on this issue around the world.”

Mr Sunak defended his move to issue more licences for North Sea exploration, arguing that “the practical and sensible thing for the country is to make sure we use the resources at home as part of that sensible transition”.

Mr Sunak told broadcasters he meant “the people protesting outside my house” when he said he would not allow “ideological zealots” to dictate climate policy.

Sir Keir Starmer is also attending 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.

Asked about Sir Keir’s plans to make Britain the world’s green finance capital, Mr Sunak accused him of “just trying to catch up” as his Government already has a “fantastic track record”.

The Labour leader, who polls suggest is on track to snatch the keys to No 10 at the next general election, will be meeting world leaders and foreign investors at the conference.

Mr Sunak batted off questions on whether he fears Sir Keir appears more like a statesman, pointing to his own “fantastic track record” of global diplomacy over the last year.

Cop28 takes place in the context of rising geopolitical tensions, with fears that the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine could make co-operation even more difficult.

The location of this year’s climate talks has prompted scepticism among many campaigners, as the United Arab Emirates 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 – which he has denied.

Asked whether the allegations undermine the UAE’s position leading the negotiations, Mr Sunak said: “No. Look, I commend the UAE’s leadership on this summit in general, we’ve been working very closely with them.

“In particular I’m really pleased that they’ve made incredible progress on the finance aspect of this.”

The Prime Minister said he had not discussed the Cop28 summit with his climate-conscious daughter, saying they were too busy eating pasta and popcorn at the Downing Street Christmas market before his departure to Dubai.

But, he said, more generally he had a “very strong Conservative instinct to protect what we have for future generations”.

Mr Sunak added: “It’s our moral responsibility to leave our kids’ environment in a better state than we found it, not just for my kids, that’s for everyone.”