Boris Johnson forces out UK president of climate change summit

PM removes Claire O’Neill six months after offering her the role

Matthew Green,Peter Stubley
Saturday 01 February 2020 00:48 GMT
Energy minister Claire O’Neill declares climate emergency in Commons

Boris Johnson has axed the president of the major climate summit which the UK is hosting in November.

The prime minister said Claire Perry O’Neill would be replaced as head of Cop26 by a serving cabinet minister just six months after offering her the role.

Ms O’Neill, the former MP for Devizes and minister for energy and clean growth, said she was “very sad” at the decision.

She claimed that the position had been “rescinded” because Whitehall could not cope with an independent unit organising the summit in Glasgow.

“A shame we haven’t had one Climate cabinet meeting since we formed,” she added. “Wishing the cop team every blessing in the climate recovery emergency.”

The summit is set to be the most crucial round of UN climate negotiations since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Former Labour leader Ed Milliband described the decision as a “total mess of the PM’s making in absolutely vital and incredibly complex climate negotiations.”

And Lib Dem co-leader Sir Ed Davey, a former climate change secretary, said the removal of Ms O’Neill was “extremely alarming”.

“During the election Boris Johnson pretended that he was interested in tackling the climate emergency.,” he added.

“His words have not been met with any action whatsoever. ”We have no department for climate change and no president of Cop which is the key global climate summit.

“The climate clock is ticking and Boris Johnson has no plan and no interest in forming one.”

Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Dr Doug Parr described the move as a “wobble” that “risks sending comepletely the wrong signal”.

“As the host of the next UN climate summit, the UK government has a tremendous responsibility to make sure progress will be made,” he said.

“For this summit to be a success, the new president needs the full weight of the UK government behind them and the prime minister acting as lead diplomat and persuader when needed.”

Announcing the removal of Ms O’Neill, the Cabinet Office said in a statement: “The prime minister is grateful to Claire for her work preparing for what will be a very successful and ambitious climate change summit in Glasgow in November.

“Preparations will continue at pace for the summit, and a replacement will be confirmed shortly. Going forward, this will be a ministerial role.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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