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The former director of public prosecutions said the UK, as chair of the G7 this year and host of the major United Nations climate summit, was in a prime position to lead efforts to cut global carbon output but said the Prime Minister “isn’t doing it”.
The summit is hoping to secure action to prevent global temperatures rising above 1.5C degrees against pre-industrial levels.
The Prime Minister is ... lowering expectations by a commentary instead of leadership on the global stage
Sir Keir Starmer
But the Labour leader said Mr Johnson was looking to lower expectations on such ambitions with his pronouncements – repeated in Rome on Saturday before his G20 meetings – that the gathering of world leaders has only a six out of 10 chance of success.
In comments made to the Sunday Telegraph, Sir Keir said: “The Prime Minister has not been out there, on the front line, showing the international leadership that we need.
“Therefore, we’ve got the position now, and you’re seeing it today, the Prime Minister is turning into a commentator, rather than a leader in relation to Cop26, lowering expectations by a commentary instead of leadership on the global stage, which is what he should be doing, or, frustratingly, he could be doing.
“There is a risk to our international reputation because the lesson of Paris is that you need strong leadership into a big conference like this and that most of the hard work on international leadership is done before the conference.
“It is a big risk and it’s a risk because our Prime Minister hasn’t shown that leadership when he has been in a position to do so.”
Asked what Labour would do differently to the Conservatives, Sir Keir said his party would be encouraging the “big emitters” to pledge to cut their emissions by 2030, adding: “When they put forward plans which say what we’re going to do in 2050, 2060, we should not be saying that’s heroic.”
He said the Government’s decision to cut the foreign aid budget sent the “complete wrong signal to world” at a time when the UK is encouraging developed nations to commit 100 billion dollars annually to support poorer nations to deal with the impact of climate change.
A future Labour government would invest £28 million per year for the rest of the decade to support weaning the domestic economy off fossil fuels, Sir Keir told the newspaper.