Rishi Sunak’s climate policy ‘hypocrisy’ spelt out in watchdog’s COP28 report  

Westminster’s 'mixed messages’ on climate have damaged UK’s global image warns advisor

Rishi Sunak’s climate ‘hypocrisy’ has been called out after a leading climate watchdog has warned that Rishi Sunak’s “mixed messages” on climate policy have damaged the country’s position as a global leader in the sector following COP28. 

International perception of the UK’s climate ambition has “suffered” as a result of Westminster’s net zero U-turns, the government’s leading climate advisory group Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said in an assessment of the recent climate summit. 

During his half a day visit to COP28 last November, Rishi Sunak made a speech denying he had abandoned the climate fight, however the advisory group warned that the country’s climate reputation had in fact been tarnished.

A reminder of Rishi Sunak’s recent ‘climate wrecking’ rollbacks include; approving a new coal mine, accelerating the production of new oil fields and attempting to make the annual licensing of fossil fuels a legal requirement for the UK. 

The international perception of the UK’s climate ambition has therefore unsurprisingly been affected by Sunak’s ‘mixed messages’, with his most recent announcements on new fossil fuel developments and the Prime Minister’s speech to soften some net zero policies.

Greenpeace UK said the report spells out the UK government’s “hypocrisy” over climate policy. 

“Our climate is on a knife edge, and there must be no more empty words or hollow promises.” said Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, Rebecca Newsom.

“The government must immediately end new oil and gas production and tax fossil fuel companies more to generate new public finance for climate action both at home and abroad. Only then can the UK begin to credibly claim it is a global climate leader.”

Laying out what Westminster must do following the outcomes of the climate summit, the Climate Change Committee urged the government to continue having a visible presence at future COPs and pushed for ‘greater domestic climate ambition’ so the UK doesn’t lose its international standing altogether. 

This includes supporting the global goals to triple renewable capacity and double the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030, as well as accelerating the global transition away from fossil fuels.

Piers Forster, Interim Chair of the Climate Change Committee acknowledged that the UK played an “important role” in the COP28 outcome and that the nation was further into decarbonisation than others, however warned now was the time to “push even harder”.

“The UK could set a powerful example of tackling climate change and reducing our insecurity to climate impacts,” said Forster. 

“The new global adaptation framework goes further than our own so I urge the Government to lean into its global role with an even stronger demonstration of domestic ambition.”

He said the UK must “rapidly replace fossil fuels with low-carbon alternatives to get back on track to meet our 2030 goal”. 

“The obligation on every country is now to push even harder. This also frames the economic challenge for the UK.”

(Image Credit: Number 10 / Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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