Rishi Sunak COP27 attendance ‘under review’ after backlash, says No.10

A Downing Street spokesperson has said that Rishi Sunak’s decision not to attend COP27 in November is “under review”, after the prime minister faced fierce backlash.

Last week No.10 said Sunak would not be attending due to other “pressing domestic commitments”, primarily the autumn budget which was due to be published on 31 October but has been pushed back to 17 November. However, on Monday No. 10 announced this position was "under review".

This follows the pressure put on the prime minister from fellow politicians and green groups, including UK COP26 lead Alok Sharma who expressed his “disappointment” with Sunak’s decision to the Times.

He said: “I think it does send a signal — if the prime minister was to go — about our renewed commitment on this issue.”

This comes after Sharma was stripped of his cabinet position last week, saying at his last evidence session with MPs before COP27 he had hoped countries would “go further, and faster” and “follow through on the commitments they have made” since COP26.

New environment secretary Theresa Coffey supported Sunak’s decision not to attend, describing the COP as “just a gathering of people in Egypt” to LBC, and saying it is not one of the “big political summits”.

America’s President Joe Biden will reportedly be attending COP27, despite the summit coinciding with the US Midterms elections next month. It has been confirmed that King Charles will also not attend the summit, despite hopes being raised last week when Coffey said it would be “his choice” whether he attends or not.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has also confirmed she will attend COP27. A spokesperson said the decision was made “given the vital importance of governments working together to tackle climate change”.

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg has said she will not be attending COP27, criticising the Egyptian government for gatekeeping, greenwashing, and describing the COP as “an opportunity for leaders and people in power to get attention”.

Thunberg signed a petition last week from a human rights coalition that called on Egyptian authorities to open up civic space and release political prisoners, according to the Guardian.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said Sunak’s decision to reassess whether he will attend COP27 is the right decision but “showing up is not enough”. He said: “If Rishi Sunak wants to be taken seriously on this issue, he should attend these vital talks. But [...] Sunak’s government must do far more to demonstrate its commitment to building a fossil fuel free future.

“With the government due to decide on whether to allow a new coal mine to go ahead in Cumbria within days, UK credibility on tackling the climate crisis is seriously at stake. The government must reject this unnecessary and highly polluting mine – and leave coal in the ground where it belongs.”