No 10 accused of ‘cavalier attitude’ to UK’s climate summit duties


Boris Johnson’s group had a “cavalier attitude” to internet hosting an important UN climate summit within the UK, taking the view “they could wing it with a few press releases and that would all be fine” relatively than placing severe work into the talks, the sacked former minister originally in charge has stated.

Claire O’Neill was appointed by Johnson to head the Cop26 summit in September 2019 however was summarily dismissed on the eve of the launch of the UK’s presidency in February this 12 months.

She informed parliament’s enterprise, power and industrial technique committee on Tuesday that the first months of the UK’s proposed presidency had been characterised by inter-departmental rivalries and a scarcity of understanding of how very important the UN climate talks had been.

“[There was] extraordinary ineptitude and amateurishness” within the prime minister’s close-knit group of advisers, she stated. “There was no understanding that this was an Olympics-style event, but far more important in terms of the world.”

The Treasury, together with another authorities departments, had opposed placing the UK ahead as potential hosts within the first place, and had then refused to enable O’Neill the assets to rent exterior employees, amid “draconian” staffing restrictions.

“I was keen to recruit the talent that delivered the [London 2012] Olympics, but was barred from external hiring,” she stated.

Other ministers had additionally been miffed that O’Neill had been allowed to attend the celebrated Davos assembly of enterprise and political leaders in January, whereas that they had not, she informed MPs. That was given as one of the explanations for her sacking, she stated, together with allegations that she had handled a civil servant harshly in a earlier ministerial position.

She stated these allegations had been thrown into a brand new mild by the prime minister’s continued help of Priti Patel, the house secretary, after a damning report discovered proof that she bullied civil servants.

Due to the “public monstering” of her popularity, O’Neill stated she had been suggested to sue for unfair dismissal and gender bias – there have been no other women in the top Cop26 team, and few in Downing Street – however she informed MPs she had rejected the thought as she most well-liked to be supportive of the federal government’s presidency of Cop26.

O’Neill stated the prime minister’s chief adviser – understood to be Dominic Cummings, although she didn’t identify him – had phoned her to say that the Cop26 talks didn’t require a president. She had then identified to him that having a president was a UN statutory requirement.

“There was no sense that what we were doing was a deadly serious diplomatic moment,” she stated.

The Cop26 talks had been initially scheduled to happen firstly of final month, however have been postponed by a year to next November as a result of of the Covid-19 pandemic. O’Neill stated the postponement had been a superb transfer, because it gave the UK and different international locations time to put together.

But she famous that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is in cost of the talks, was preoccupied with the financial fallout from the Covid-19 disaster, and prime ministerial dedication was wanted to make sure the talks had been successful.

Johnson is to maintain a gathering of world leaders on 12 December, the fifth anniversary of the (*10*), to encourage them to come ahead with nationwide plans on greenhouse gasoline emissions forward of subsequent 12 months’s talks.

O’Neill stated she believed the negotiations and preparations for the Cop26 summit had been progressing effectively after their rocky begin.

She stated one of her essential focuses for Cop26 had been to encourage international locations to come ahead with targets to attain internet zero emissions, because the UK had already accomplished. Many international locations, together with China, have accomplished so and on Tuesday, Climate Action Tracker discovered that if all of these pledges had been fulfilled, temperature rises would attain about 2.1C above pre-industrial ranges, which isn’t far above the 2C higher restrict governments are certain to below the Paris settlement.

A authorities spokesperson stated: “As Cop26 president, Alok Sharma is coordinating efforts to drive motion on climate change throughout the globe forward of the UK internet hosting the Cop26 climate convention subsequent 12 months. This contains partaking straight with over 40 governments in addition to attending dozens of main worldwide occasions nearly to convey the world collectively to deal with tackling climate change.

“The world is responding to the immediate and acute challenges posed by coronavirus, but we recognise that the climate crisis has not taken time off. The UK, along with the UN and France, will host the climate ambition summit later this month to give countries a platform to make commitments.”



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