Putin’s war on Ukraine is reason to ‘act faster’ on climate, Sunak urges

Putin’s war on Ukraine is reason to ‘act faster’ on climate, Sunak urges

Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and rising energy prices are a reason to “act faster”, not go slow on climate change, Rishi Sunak has told leaders at the Cop27 summit.

Speaking at the latest round of UN climate talks in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, the Prime Minister said it was morally right to deliver on promises on tackling climate change – but also economically right, reducing energy dependency and providing new jobs and growth.

Mr Sunak’s comments came after UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned at the start of Cop27 that the world is “on the highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”.

We are in the fight of our lives - and we are losing

Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general

Mr Guterres said: “We are in the fight of our lives – and we are losing”, with greenhouse gases still increasing and temperatures still rising.

And while the world’s attention is gripped by the war in Ukraine – prompting an energy, food and cost-of-living crisis – and other conflicts, Mr Guterres said: “Climate change is on a different timeline and a different scale.”

“It is the defining issue of our age. It is the central challenge of our century. It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner.”

He warned: “Today’s crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing.”

The latest round of talks comes amid high geopolitical tensions sparked by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, worsening extreme weather and calls for rich nations to provide finance for the loss and damage hitting poor countries as a result of the climate crisis.

Leaders including Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called for an end to the war between Russia and Ukraine as they spoke to the opening ceremony of the summit.

Attending a side event at Cop27, Boris Johnson warned the fight against climate change had become a “collateral victim” of the invasion of Ukraine, with countries questioning the goal of cutting emissions at a time of soaring energy prices.

And he warned against the risk that “some people will go weak and wobbly” on commitments to cut emissions to zero overall – known at net zero – to tackle the crisis.

Mr Sunak said the UK was keeping its promises on climate action, which include cutting emissions by 68% by 2030 and £11.6 billion for poorer countries to tackle the crisis, including tripling funding for adaptation to £1.5 billion as part of the total.

In his speech to the leaders’ summit, the PM said: “Climate security goes hand in hand with energy security.

“Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine and rising energy prices across the world are not a reason to go slow on climate change.

“They are a reason to act faster, because diversifying our energy supplies by investing in renewables is precisely the way to insure ourselves against the risks of energy dependency.

“It’s also a fantastic source of new jobs and growth.”

Mr Sunak’s attendance at the gathering in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh alongside leaders such as US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, marks his first outing on the international stage since becoming Prime Minister last month.

In a packed day at the conference, the Prime Minister also held a series of bilateral meetings, including with Italy’s new far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen amid ongoing tensions over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

But on the climate issue, he faces criticism over the Government’s decision to issue more licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and its continued opposition to new onshore wind.

The UK is also currently not on track to meet its carbon cutting goals into the 2030s, and is under pressure over its delivery of climate finance commitments.

Friends of the Earth’s international climate campaigner Rachel Kennerley said the UK Government was failing to deliver adequate finance to support vulnerable nations and was still helping fund a damaging gas project in Mozambique, as well as allowing new North Sea oil and gas schemes.

Instead, ministers should lift barriers to onshore wind and roll out insulation, paid for with a bigger windfall tax on fossil fuel firms, she urged.

And Mariana Paoli, from Christian Aid said: “What is needed to truly help those facing the worst impacts of the climate crisis is a fund to compensate them for the permanent loss and damage they are experiencing,” warning the UK has been quiet on the issue.

Funding for loss and damage from climate change, such as destruction of crops, buildings and infrastructure in poorer countries, is now an item on the official agenda for the talks.

The deadly impacts of climate change are here and now

Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general

It is a key demand for some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, who are on the frontline of climate impact and yet have done least to cause the crisis, though developed countries have historically been reluctant to discuss it.

In his speech to world leaders, Mr Guterres warned that “loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug. It is a moral imperative”, calling for concrete results on the issue at Cop27.

Mr Guterres also called for a pact between developed and developing countries, in which all nations make an extra effort to reduce emissions, and richer countries provide financial assistance to help emerging economies tackle climate change, and to end dependence on fossil fuels.

He said the United States and China had a particular responsibility to join efforts to make the pact a reality, warning humanity had a choice to “co-operate or perish”.