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Rishi Sunak will attend Cop27 climate summit in first U-turn as PM

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Rishi Sunak will attend the Cop27 climate summit in his first U-turn as Prime Minister, after ditching more than half a dozen leadership pledges in his debut week on the job.

Rishi Sunak initially said he would not go to the Cop27 conference - John Sibley/Reuters /REUTERS

Rishi Sunak initially said he would not go to the Cop27 conference – John Sibley/Reuters /REUTERS© JOHN SIBLEY /REUTERS

He announced the change of heart following intense criticism of his decision to skip the green conference and after Boris Johnson announced he would be going.

He wrote on Twitter:

Mr Sunak initially said he would not go to the annual conference, which is being held in Egypt, because he was too busy preparing the Autumn Statement.

Speaking last Friday, he said: “It’s important to me that as Prime Minister we leave behind an environment that is better for our children and grandchildren.

“At the moment, it’s right that I’m also focusing on the depressing domestic challenges we have with the economy. That’s what people watching would reasonably expect me to be doing as well.”

Downing Street then signalled on Sunday that a U-turn was on the cards, saying his attendance was possible if headway was made on the Autumn Statement.

The next day, a Number 10 spokesman formally confirmed the decision was “under review” because “substantial progress” had been achieved.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow climate secretary, said Mr Sunak had been “shamed into” the U-turn and was “going to avoid embarrassment not to provide leadership”.

“His initial instinct tells us all about him – he just doesn’t get it when it comes to the energy bills and climate crisis,” he said.

“Yet again we see a Prime Minister who only makes decisions for reasons of political management not the national interest.”

It comes with Mr Sunak failing to stick to more than half a dozen of the leadership pledges he made during the summer battle with Liz Truss.

No 10 has already confirmed that the Prime Minister will not be going ahead with plans to fine people £10 if they miss GP appointments.

A spokesman said last Friday that “now is not the right time to take this policy forward”, after it faced a backlash from doctors and NHS leaders.

Separately on health, Mr Sunak has already seen a pledge to set up an NHS backlogs task force on his first day in office come and go.

Over the summer, Mr Sunak also floated housing asylum seekers on cruise ships as part of his plan to end the reliance on pricey hotel rooms.

But he has already rowed back on the promise over legal concerns, with No 10 saying on Monday it was “not aware of any plans” to proceed with it.

The Prime Minister made a big play of his Brexiteer credentials during the leadership contest and vowed to review all retained EU law within 100 days.

He vowed to appoint a new Brexit minister to oversee the process, filling the role which has been vacant since Jacob Rees-Mogg left it in early September.

But sources told the Financial Times that the target would no longer be met and plans for a “Brexit delivery unit” within Whitehall had been quietly dropped.

Mr Sunak has also abandoned his intention to create a separate Department of Energy, with its own Cabinet minister, splitting up the current Business Department.

He has decided that, with the country in a cost of living crisis and just 18 months out from an election, that “the time for changes in the machinery of government has passed”.

Fracking ban popular among MPs

One of his first acts as Prime Minister, and one which was enormously popular with MPs, was to reimpose the ban on fracking that was lifted by Ms Truss.

But the decision went against a leadership pledge to allow drilling “where local communities support it” to help Britain become energy self-sufficient by 2045.

Whilst his rival ran on a platform of cutting taxes, the former chancellor only committed to one major reduction in the amount families pay to the Exchequer.

He said that he would take 1p off income tax bills by April 2024 and cut the rate to 16p in the pound by the end of the decade.

But, with the nation’s finances in a worse place following the disastrous mini-Budget, No 10 is now planning big rises in both personal and business levies.

Downing Street said Mr Sunak was still committed to a path that would allow him to cut taxes in 2024, but that it “could not speculate” on long-term decisions.

When it came to foreign policy, one of the now Prime Minister’s pledges was to make his first overseas trip in the office to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine.

But following his U-turn, that inaugural trip will now be to the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, where the Cop27 summit is being held.

Mr Sunak did make Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, the first foreign leader he called after entering in No 10, with Joe Biden, the US president, becoming the second.

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