COP26: Claire Perry O’Neill ‘threatens to sue government’ over dismissal as climate summit chief

Ex-energy minister sacked after just six months in role heading up UN conference

Chiara Giordano
Sunday 02 February 2020 14:49 GMT
Energy minister Claire O’Neill declares climate emergency in Commons

Claire Perry O’Neill is reportedly looking into suing the government after being dismissed as president of a major UN climate summit.

The former energy minister was axed just six months into her role as head of the COP26 conference due to be hosted by Glasgow in November.

Ms Perry O’Neill claimed the position had been “rescinded” because Whitehall “can’t cope” with an independent unit organising the summit.

However, the ex-Tory MP for Devizes, in Wiltshire, allegedly told friends prime minister Boris Johnson and his senior aides gave three different reasons for her sacking, The Sunday Times reported.

She is now reportedly considering taking legal action against the government if she does not receive a proper explanation, the newspaper said.

In a tweet after her dismissal on Friday, Ms Perry O’Neill said she was “very sad” at the decision.

She added: “A shame we haven’t had one climate cabinet meeting since we formed.

“Wishing the COP team every blessing in the climate recovery emergency.”

The former minister has allegedly been accused of “bullying” civil servants but was completely exonerated of one claim made against her by an official in her team, according to The Sunday Times.

A source, said to be a friend, told the newspaper there were “untruths circulating” about her, adding: “She is consulting an employment lawyer.”

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

The decision to appoint a minister as Ms Perry O’Neill’s successor has been viewed by some as the prime minister taking the preparations seriously, Jennifer Tollmann, of climate and energy think tank E3G, said.

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 agencies

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