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UK government must show more ‘global leadership’ on climate change – Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer accused Rishi Sunak of ‘trying to polarise’ the climate debate and of playing ‘petty politics’.

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Sir Keir Starmer at the Cop28 summit in Dubai on Friday (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Sir Keir Starmer has called for more “global leadership” from the UK government on climate change and has pledged to play a “full part on the international stage” if Labour wins the next election.

The Labour leader attended the Cop28 summit on Friday at Expo City Dubai, where a “global stocktake” on climate goals is set to show that much more work is needed to reach key targets.

Sir Keir held several bilateral talks with world leaders on Friday, including the King of Jordan and the Prime Minister of Barbados, and will hold more on Saturday during his visit to the Middle East.

But he called on the UK to do more to help achieve climate targets, which he said would also help millions at home struggling with high bills.

The shadow secretary of state for energy security and net zero, Ed Miliband, has joined Sir Keir at Cop28 (Andrew Matthews/PA)
The shadow secretary of state for energy security and net zero, Ed Miliband, has joined Sir Keir at Cop28 (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Speaking to the BBC, Sir Keir said: “Every country needs to do more across the globe, and that includes the UK.

“We have done some good things, but we need to lead by the power of example, not use that as a reason for going no further.

“This is a huge obligation for Britain because many people watching this will be struggling with the green transition to renewables, so there’s a huge amount of public benefit for many millions of people in Britain to what’s going on here.

“So instead of retreating from that and seeing it as an unwanted obligation, we need to see it as an opportunity to help people with their bills.”

He added: “What I want to see is much more global leadership from the United Kingdom.

“I’m here as a statement of intent, that should there be an election next year that we win, then we will play our full part on the international stage, obviously towards those net zero targets, but also because of the huge benefit to millions of people back in the UK who desperately need those lower bills and that certainty.”

Sir Keir has been joined on his trip to the United Arab Emirates by the shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, and the shadow climate change secretary, Ed Miliband.

Earlier on Friday he was present for an opening address by the King to the World Climate Action Summit, which Sir Keir described as “very powerful”.

The Opposition leader repeated his accusation that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was “shrinking” on the international stage and added that Mr Sunak was playing “petty politics” by “trying to polarise” the climate debate.

Sir Keir Starmer met with Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, during a bilateral meeting on Friday (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Sir Keir Starmer met Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, during a bilateral meeting on Friday (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Labour is hoping to stress that should it win the next general election, the party would be open to green investment, with Sir Keir pledging to be open to “ramp up” climate spending to £28 billion during the second half of the next parliament.

He said green investment would be “an investment in the lowering of bills in the long term”, and that all spending would be “subject to our fiscal rules”.

Sir Keir said: “I’m here because it’s in the British national interest that I’m here, because if there is an election next year that we are privileged enough to win, then it’s very important that we go all out for clean power 2030 (and) bring those bills down.

“I’ve had the opportunity here to talk to world leaders on this. I’ve talked to global investors this afternoon.

“They want to plan with us how they might work with us if we come into government, in order to reduce people’s energy bills and take them through that transition. So I’m here because it’s in the national interest.

“It’s also a statement of intent so that everyone can see how an incoming Labour government would act differently from the current government which frankly, is shrinking from its obligations here.

“That’s being felt not just across the globe, but back in Britain as well.”

He added: “I think that the Prime Minister is one of the people who’s trying to polarise the debate.

“Actually, when you come to an international conference like this, it’s about casting aside differences and showing global leadership.

“Every single country in the world needs to do more. If we don’t hit these targets on the climate, it will be a disaster, which is measured in floods, in fires, in all sorts of catastrophes across the world.”

He also said he was “dismayed and saddened” by the resumption of hostilities in Gaza, having discussed the situation with the King of Jordan in a bilateral talk on Friday afternoon.

He said: “We are all dismayed and saddened to see the developments today.

“I think the single most important thing is that we get back to the cessation of hostilities that we’ve seen over the last few days.

“That is the only way we can make progress on the hostages, the only way to get humanitarian aid in that is desperately needed, and ultimately, the only way we can make those steps towards the only meaningful resolution, which is a political resolution and a two-state solution.

“So even if it’s at the 11th hour, even against the backdrop that we see today, I want to argue for that cessation of hostilities.

“What we cannot do, absolutely cannot do, is to go back to the phase of fighting, of hostilities, we saw just before the last few days. We can’t go back to that.”

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