Rishi Sunak has insisted the UK can “stand tall” at the COP28 summit – despite a former minister claiming the country is no longer seen as a “serious partner” in the fight against climate change.
Lord Zac Goldsmith, who resigned as an environment minister in June, told Sky News that delays to green targets meant “our standing has diminished in recent months”.
He said: “The UK is just not seen by our allies – big and also small island members of the Commonwealth – as a reliable or serious partner.”
Asked about the comments by Sky News on the plane to COP28 in Dubai, the prime minister said the country had “a better track record than any other major economy in decarbonising”.
Mr Sunak added: “We are a leader on this issue – we have been, we’re continuing to do so. I will walk around very proudly championing the UK’s achievements.”
The PM is in Dubai for one day and will have a series of bilateral meetings where he will discuss climate change as well as the conflict in the Middle East.
He has faced criticism from some in his own party for delaying green pledges and issuing new licences for oil and gas drilling.
Speaking to reporters on the plane, Mr Sunak said the UK would still need fossil fuels for years and “any sensible approach to this will seek to use the resources we have at home”.
Asked about reports that the host country for the climate summit – the United Arab Emirates – had planned to use the event to strike oil deals, the PM said he wasn’t concerned, adding: “I commend the UAE’s leadership on this summit.”
Mr Sunak said King Charles’s address to the Dubai summit was another sign of how seriously the UK takes climate change.
“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,” he added.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will also attend on Friday and Saturday to meet world leaders.
A senior Labour source said the visit was about the “national interest” and would show the party wants to see the UK “back on the world stage as a leader on global issues”.