Rishi Sunak accused of sending wrong signals on climate crisis as he heads to Cop28

Rishi Sunak accused of sending wrong signals on climate crisis as he heads to Cop28

Rishi Sunak faces accusations of sending mixed signals on addressing the climate emergency as he heads to the Cop28 summit in Dubai. Despite claiming that his revised net zero targets demonstrate independence from “ideological zealots,” the Chancellor is under scrutiny for allocating approximately £1.6bn of climate finance during the summit. He asserts that the UK will surpass its £11.6bn spending target over the five years to 2026.

However, charities and non-governmental organizations argue that the UK may only meet the target by altering the way it calculates climate aid, falling significantly short otherwise. Rishi Sunak , prior to the Cop28 summit, emphasized his “pragmatic” approach to the climate crisis, highlighting decisions to scale back net zero targets on phasing out petrol cars and gas boilers two months ago.

In a bid to distance himself from Labour’s ambitious £28bn annual investment in a green industrial revolution, Sunak defended his approach, stating that the transition to net zero should enhance safety and prosperity without burdening ordinary families. He asserted the UK’s leadership in making pragmatic, long-term decisions domestically and pledged to lead international efforts at Cop28.

Labour leader Keir Starmer

Sunak’s stance drew criticism from Labour leader Keir Starmer, who accused the government of sending the wrong signals on net zero. Starmer pledged a Labour government would use the net zero agenda to turbocharge growth and strengthen requirements for companies to report on green measures, aiming to mobilize private finance for emission reduction initiatives.

The Chancellor’s decision to revise climate targets seeks to create a distinction with Labour’s approach, as both leaders vie for attention on the world stage at the summit. Sunak claims the UK’s world leadership in climate action, citing statistics that allegedly demonstrate the country’s commitment to meeting international obligations.

No. 10 announced that the prime minister would allocate £1.6bn for climate projects during the summit, with nearly £900m, including £465m for forests, as new funding separate from the £11.6bn spending target for 2022 to 2026. The UK also contributes about £60m to a global loss and damage fund in Dubai, criticized by ActionAid as a “derisory offer to millions of people facing climate catastrophe.”

The government faces allegations of changing the definition of international climate finance to meet its £11.6bn target. Over 70 UK civil society organizations challenged the new definition in October, with Climate Action Network UK stating that altering the goalposts is an inappropriate way for the UK to fulfill its international commitments.


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