LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s climate minister, who emotionally steered a United Nations (UN) summit to a deal last year, has threatened to quit as some of the contenders to become Conservative leader equivocate on the government’s net zero target.
The legally enshrined target to achieve net carbon emissions by 2050 has been questioned by four of the five remaining candidates to succeed Prime Minister Boris Johnson, citing the costs when Britain is tackling a cost-of-living crisis.
Heading into a second TV debate by the candidates yesterday, only former finance minister Rishi Sunak has vowed to stick by the target and by “green levies” to help pay for it.
COP26 President Alok Sharma told Sunday’s Observer newspaper that it was “absolutely a leadership issue”, as Britain and Europe face a record-breaking heatwave this weekend.
“Anyone aspiring to lead our country needs to demonstrate that they take this issue incredibly seriously, that they’re willing to continue to lead and take up the mantle that Boris Johnson started off,” the climate minister said.
Asked if he could resign if candidates showed weakness on net zero, Sharma said, “Let’s see, shall we? I think we need to see where the candidates are. And we need to see who actually ends up in Number 10 (Downing Street).”
Under Sharma’s chairmanship in Glasgow, nearly 200 countries last November pledged to speed up the fight against rising temperatures, after two weeks of marathon negotiations.
But India and China weakened the language of the final text to retain high-polluting coal, forcing tears and an exasperated apology from Sharma as he brought down the gavel.