Starmer says COP26 climate talks at risk of failing as Boris Johnson ‘missing in action’

Labour leader says PM more interested in ‘soundbites’ than action

Matt Mathers@MattEm90
Wednesday 04 August 2021 10:24
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Boris Johnson is "missing in action" ahead of the vital COP26 climate summit in Scotland later this year, Keir Starmer is warning.

The Labour leader claims the November talks in Glasgow are at risk of failing because the PM is more interested in "soundbites" than leadership.

His comments come ahead of a visit to Glasgow, where he will promote Labour's own policies aiming to reduce emissions.

Mr Johnson also makes a rare trip north of the border on Wednesday, although Downing Street has kept quiet on his itinerary.

Prior to his own visit, Mr Starmer vowed to keep a committment to Labour's target of achieving the “substantial majority” of greenhouse gas emission cuts by 2030, as set out in the party's last election manifesto.

With just under three months to go until the world's attention is focused on CO26, Mr Starmer accused the government of lacking ambition on the climate crisis.

“As host of the summit, the world is looking to Britain to deliver,” he wrote in The Guardian. “We cannot afford to miss this moment, but I fear we will.”

He added: “All over the world, unusual weather events show that dystopia is not on the horizon. It is here today, all around us,” he wrote.

“At this vital moment, our prime minister is missing in action, while his climate spokesperson is busy advising people to freeze their leftover bread.

"When the issues at stake are so large, it really is irresponsible for the response to be so small.”

The government has come under criticism for its policy and rhetoric on the climate in recent days.

Allegra Stratton, the COP26 spokesperson, came under fire after suggesting people should avoid rinsing their plates before putting them into the dishwasher to help reduce emissions.

Earlier this week, Mr Stratton, a former journalist, revealed that she continued to use a diesel car because she had to take long journeys to Scotland, Wales and Gloucestershire for family visits.

Her remarks were condemned by climate activists and electric car experts, who said the vehicles are suitable for longer journeys with the right planning.

Labour has also warned that ministers' decision to scrap the Green Homes Grant has cost 90,000 jobs.

The grant was a central plank of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s 2020 plan for jobs, which promised a green recovery to improve 600,000 homes and support 100,000 green jobs.

But by the time it was closed in March 2021, just 63,000 households had benefited and new Labour analysis has found that only 10,000 jobs were delivered.

Shadow housing secretary Lucy Powell described the scheme as “a shambles from the start”.

“Once again the government are over-promising and under-delivering, with their failures damaging our Covid recovery and costing vital jobs,” she said.

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