British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has defended his record on net zero emissions, confirming that he will attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai later this year.
Speaking to reporters travelling with him to the G20 summit in India, Sunak said that achieving net zero “can be very beneficial for jobs” if done in the right way. He also stressed that he does not believe that tackling climate change should involve a “hair shirt” approach that leads to increased costs for families.
“The net zero story for me shouldn’t be a kind of hair shirt story of giving everything up and your bills going up,” Sunak said. “That’s not the vision of net zero that I think is the right one for the UK.”
“The vision of net zero that I think commands the most support and is the right one is one that recognises that it’s important, for our kids and our grandkids, to leave the environment in a better state than we found it,” he added.
Sunak said that he believes the right approach to net zero is to invest in new technologies, pointing to the government’s commitment to invest in small modular reactors and electric batteries as examples of this approach.
Sunak’s comments come amid growing pressure on the government to take stronger action on climate change. In recent weeks, the High Court agreed to hear a joint challenge by green groups to the UK government’s updated net zero strategy. Financial institutions have also warned that the government’s “rhetoric” risks stopping the finance sector from making the transformative investments needed to reach net zero and grow the economy.
Sunak’s decision to attend the COP28 summit is seen as a sign that he is taking the issue of climate change seriously. However, his record on climate issues has been criticised by some environmental groups.
In October 2022, Sunak opted to skip the COP27 climate summit in Egypt. He reversed this decision when it emerged that his predecessor, Boris Johnson, would attend.
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