The prime minister has pledged to triple UK funding to help nations adapt to climate change as he insisted there is still ‘room to hope’.
Rishi Sunak took the mic for his first major international speech after a day of drastic warnings on the world’s likely trajectory on global heating.
The head of the UN said this morning that the world is ‘on the highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator’.
Secretary-general Antonio Guterres told the opening of the COP27 climate conference that ‘we are in the fight of our lives – and we are losing’, with greenhouse gases still growing and temperatures still rising.
Mr Sunak acknowledged that there were multiple challenges preventing coordinated efforts to change course for the world, including the cost of living crisis, Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.
‘I know that for many, finances are tough right now,’ he said.
‘The pandemic all but broke the global economy and before coming here today, I spent last week working on the difficult decisions needed to ensure confidence and economic stability in my own country.
‘But I can tell you today that the United Kingdom is delivering on our commitment of £11.6 billion.
‘And as part of this we will now triple our funding on adaptation to £1.5 billion by 2025.’
He added that it is ‘morally right to honour our promises’ when faced with extreme events such as devastating flooding in Pakistan.
The conference may have felt slightly crowded to Mr Sunak, as his rival Boris Johnson also showed up – with some suspecting the current PM changed his mind on attending so as not to have been shown up himself.
‘It’s great that the former prime minister is here,’ the prime minister insisted.
‘And I think it says something great about the UK that not only have we got the current Prime Minister here, we’ve got a former prime minister here.
‘It just demonstrates our leadership on this issue globally.
‘And Boris was a stalwart champion of building a greener future. He deserves enormous credit and praise for that.’
Boris Johnson also claimed he was glad Mr Sunak was at the summit, telling his audience at a New York Times event: ‘I’m a foot soldier, a spear carrier. I’m here in a purely supportive role and to remind the world what we did at Glasgow.’
He said the present government ‘understands that and wants to take it forward’.
But he 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.
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.
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