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The King is giving the world a “call to arms” over climate change, Rishi Sunak said as he hailed the monarch’s “long track record” of green campaigning.
Speaking on his way to the COP28 summit in Dubai, the Prime Minister insisted Britain is a “leader” on climate despite his own decision to roll back some net zero targets.
And he defended the granting of new oil and gas licences in the North Sea, claiming it was more environmentally friendly to source fossil fuels from the UK than to import them.
Mr Sunak, David Cameron and Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho are all at COP to help kickstart negotiations over a new round of global climate commitments.
Charles III is delivering an opening address to delegates – a year after the Government advised him not to attend COP27.
His record as a climate champion has sparked speculation he is likely to disagree with Mr Sunak’s policy of changing targets on cutting carbon emissions to make it more affordable for companies and individuals to meet them.
But the Prime Minister sought to lavish praise on the King, saying: “I’m delighted that he’s going to be at COP, he’s giving a call to arms in the opening statement and I think 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.
“We’ve got the head of Government there, and we’ve got our chief diplomat there in the Foreign Secretary. There are very few countries that will be able to say what I’ve just said. So that speaks again to our leadership on this issue and particularly His Majesty’s longstanding track record championing this issue and I’m delighted that he’s going to be delivering this very important statement. A proud moment for me.”
Asked whether he was worried that the net zero U-turn had reduced Britain’s credibility with other countries, Mr Sunak replied: “What l’d say first and foremost is we’ve got a better track record than any other major economy in decarbonising. Those are the facts… 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 championing the UK’s achievements in this space.”
He said it was “practical and sensible” to ramp up drilling in the North Sea, a policy criticised by green campaigners, rather than importing energy, adding: “In any reasonable scenario of the future, we are still going to need fossil fuels at 2050.”