The Prime Minister has been accused by the leader of the opposition of “lowering expectations” in the run-up to the crucial Cop26 climate summit hosted by the UK in Glasgow.
The Labour leader accused the PM of putting the targets of the United Nations conference in jeopardy.
The summit is hoping to agree a plan to prevent global temperatures rising above 1.5C degrees against pre-industrial levels as outlined in the Paris Agreement of 2015.
Sir Keir said that the UK, as chair of the G7 this year as well as host of Cop26, was in a strong position to spearhead efforts to cut global carbon emissions – but, he added, Mr Johnson “isn’t doing it”.
He added that Mr Johnson was looking to downplay expectations, citing an interview in Rome on Saturday before his G20 meetings in which the PM said that he believed the gathering of world leaders has only a six out of 10 chance of success.
Speaking in Rome, Mr Johnson also said: “Where we stand today, there is no chance of us stopping climate change next week.
“There is no chance of us getting an agreement next week to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees.
“What we could conceivably do if everybody gets their act together, what we could do, is get an agreement that means that Cop26 in Glasgow is a way station that allows us to end climate change.”
In comments made to the Sunday Telegraph, Sir Keir said: “The Prime Minister has not been out there, on the front line, showing the international leadership that we need.
“Therefore, we’ve got the position now, and you’re seeing it today, the Prime Minister is turning into a commentator, rather than a leader in relation to Cop26, lowering expectations by a commentary instead of leadership on the global stage, which is what he should be doing, or, frustratingly, he could be doing.
“There is a risk to our international reputation because the lesson of Paris is that you need strong leadership into a big conference like this and that most of the hard work on international leadership is done before the conference.
“It is a big risk and it’s a risk because our Prime Minister hasn’t shown that leadership when he has been in a position to do so.”
Asked what his party would do differently to the government, Sir Keir said Labour would be urging the “big emitters” of carbon to pledge a target of running a net zero carbon economy by 2030, rather than 20 or 30 years later.
He said the government’s decision to cut the foreign aid budget sent the “complete wrong signal to world” at a time when the UK is encouraging developed nations to commit about £70 billion a year to support poorer nations to deal with the impact of climate change.
A future Labour government would invest £28 million per year for the rest of the decade to support transitioning the domestic economy away from using fossil fuels, Sir Keir told the newspaper.
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