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Pressure mounts on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Boris Johnson set to attend COP27

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is under growing pressure over his decision not to attend the COP27 Climate Conference in Egypt next month, after it emerged that his predecessor and rival, Boris Johnson, plans to be present at the summit.

Johnson is scheduled to attend the event at Sharm El-Sheikh, which is also set to host many other world leaders, to show “solidarity” with efforts to combat climate change, reports the Observer newspaper.

Johnson’s attendance as a backbench MP would be an interesting development, after he left office just over seven weeks ago, and failed last week in his audacious bid to return to 10 Downing Street and prevent Sunak from becoming prime minister.

Some suggest the move is a ploy to put pressure on Sunak early on in his premiership, with the Observer suggesting talks are already taking place to persuade the former prime minister to change his mind.

Sunak has said he is currently too busy to attend COP27, as he deals with the UK’s ongoing economic turbulence, but has defended his position on climate change.

A government spokesman told the Observer: “The UK will be fully represented by senior ministers, including the foreign, business and environment secretaries, as well as COP President Alok Sharma. They will be working to ensure that countries continue to make progress on the groundbreaking commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow.”

The news of Johnson’s attendance comes amid another potential headache for the government after the Telegraph revealed King Charles III is to host a reception for politicians and significant figures in London after “mutually” agreeing not to attend COP27 with No. 10.

The king, a vocal environmentalist before ascending the throne earlier this year, was said to be “personally disappointed” to miss the event, having been “all lined up to go,” but was “entirely accepting of his role,” according to the paper.

His mother, Queen Elizabeth II, famously addressed the COP26 summit held in the Scottish city of Glasgow last year.

Sunak has faced criticism from many within his own party for his personal stance on attending COP27, whilst the government itself has also received flak for its general stance on climate change in recent weeks.

Sharma, who will lead the UK negotiating team in Sharm El-Sheikh, said in an interview with the Sunday Times: “I’m pretty disappointed that the prime minister is not going. I understand that he’s got a huge in-tray of domestic issues that he has to deal with.

“But I would say that going to COP27 would allow for engagement with other world leaders. And I think it does send a signal — if the prime minister was to go — about our renewed commitment on this issue.”

Sharma, who was president of the COP26 summit but will pass on his duties in Egypt, added: “People want the UK leadership to continue — they really value what we have been doing, so I hope, irrespective of who goes or not, that we continue this leadership on climate.

“For me, it is one of the defining issues of this decade. And actually, this isn’t just about the environment. You know, if you get this right, this is also about green jobs, about inward investment.”

Earlier this week, Nadine Dorries, the former culture minister, tweeted: “The prime minister is wrong not to go to COP. Global warming is the biggest crisis facing our planet and net zero creates many thousands of jobs.”

Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for the environment and net zero, said: “Rishi Sunak is absent when it comes to the climate crisis. If even the former prime minister is attending COP27, it is just further evidence of his colossal failure of leadership.

“The prime minister’s decision to pull out of COP27 shows he doesn’t care about the greatest long-term threat our country faces.”

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