David Cameron turns down Boris Johnson's offer of top climate job

5 February 2020, 10:42

David Cameron and Boris Johnson
David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

David Cameron has said it was an "honour to be asked" to lead the COP 26 climate summit, but that a minister would be better suited to the job.

The former Prime Minister has rejected Boris Johnson's offer to lead the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference.

It comes after the Tory in charge was dramatically sacked just days ago.

Mr Cameron said of the offer: "It was an honour to be asked to do that job and I'm very grateful to have been asked."

"But I think it's best in these situations if you have a Government minister doing the job, you then have one line of command rather than, perhaps, two people doing the same thing."

He continued: "I have a lot of things I have already agreed to do this year, not least the work I do for Alzheimer's Research UK, so I thought it was important that I carried on with that work.

"But I wish the Government well, I wish this climate change conference well, because it's absolutely vital.

"I'm sure that there will be a Government minister, or someone, who will be able to do the job and do it very well.

"The Government has my backing as they go forward."

However, when asked about his relationship with Mr Johnson, David Cameron declined to comment.

Claire Perry O'Neill was removed as President of the 2020 climate change summit after she claimed Boris Johnson had admitted he "doesn't get" climate change and criticised the party for a "huge lack of leadership".

Ms O'Neill spoke out as the Government unveiled plans for the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles to be brought forward to 2035, as part of the launch of the climate talks.

In a letter to Mr Johnson, Ms O'Neill said the Government was "miles off track" in setting a positive agenda for the November summit, and that promises of action "are not close to being met".

After her letter was published in the Financial Times, Ms O'Neill said the PM "doesn't really get" climate change and said there had been a huge lack of leadership and engagement.

Boris Johnson, left, talks with David Attenborough during the COP 26 launch
Boris Johnson, left, talks with David Attenborough during the COP 26 launch. Picture: PA

The announcement comes after Boris Johnson refused to answer questions about who would take on the job on Tuesday.

According to the Times, former Tory leader Lord Hague was also sounded out for the presidency but turned it down.

Since leaving Downing Street, Mr Cameron has had a series of lucrative media and speaking engagements and is also the president of Alzheimer's Research UK.

The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Glasgow in November.

Countries are expected to deliver more ambitious domestic plans for cutting greenhouse gases by 2030, as current proposals are not enough to prevent dangerous temperature rises.

Pressure is also on countries to set out long-term plans for cutting emissions, with the science now clear that the world must reduce greenhouse gases to zero in a matter of decades to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The run-up to the talks will require a major diplomatic effort from the UK to secure ambitious climate action from countries - at a time when Britain is also negotiating trade agreements with the EU and other nations.

To mark the launch of COP26, the Government announced a consultation on bringing forward a planned ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 to 2035 - and earlier if feasible.

The ban will also include hybrid vehicles for the first time.

But as figures released on Wednesday showed demand for new cars fell by 7.3% last month, the automotive industry hit out at the plan.

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Mike Hawes said: "Consumer confidence is not returning to the market and will not be helped by Government's decision to add further confusion and instability by moving the goalposts on the end of sale of internal combustion engine cars."