Rishi Sunak 'sabotaging' UK's climate change leadership, say Northern mayors

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The Prime Minister faces a barrage of criticism from regional leaders (Image: PA)
The Prime Minister faces a barrage of criticism from regional leaders (Image: PA)

Rishi Sunak is tonight accused of “sabotaging” Britain's “climate leadership”.

The Prime Minister has drawn election battle lines around plans to fight global warming. Caving into hard-right Tory backbenchers, the Conservative Premier has backed hundreds of new North Sea oil and gas licences, ordered a review of low-traffic neighbourhoods and attacked Labour’s plans to extend London’s ultra low emission zone, charging owners of more polluting vehicles £12.50 a day to drive in the capital.

Northern leaders tonight urged Mr Sunak to hand them powers so they can take regional action to tackle climate change. Greater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham accused the Government of failing “to explore the full economic opportunity of investing in clean energy for communities across Britain, particularly in the North of England”.

He said: “The Government should pass on more responsibilities to combined authorities like Greater Manchester, who are trying to crack on with the resources we have to ensure a just transition towards a clean economy where energy is affordable, access to green spaces are abundant and people are happy.”

Rishi Sunak 'sabotaging' UK's climate change leadership, say Northern mayors eideziqkeiqhhinvGreater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham (Andy Commins / Daily Mirror)

West Yorkshire Metro Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “The climate crisis is impossible to ignore, the time for action is now. The Prime Minister needs to end the dither and delay when it comes to sustainable policies which strengthen our economy, clean up our air and protect our environment. If the Prime Minister continues to sabotage the UK’s climate leadership then he should devolve more powers and more money to allow other national and regional leaders to get on with the job.”

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Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram blasted the Government’s “waning commitment” to tackling climate change and called on ministers to put more power “in the hands of those who can deliver”.

He added: “The last few years have seen the climate crisis thrust into public consciousness like never before. It presents a challenge on a scale like nothing we have seen and I believe we all have a moral duty to play our part.”

North Tyne Metro Mayor Jamie Driscoll urged the PM to attend this November’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai. “The threat we face today is existential - wildfires rage, floods wreak havoc and important wild habitats are destroyed; there is no doubt that we are in a climate emergency,” he said.

“The Prime Minister must put the UK at the forefront of environmental action on the world stage by attending COP28 and calling for an urgent, just and fair phaseout of fossil fuels. There is no greater challenge, there is no higher political priority.”

Robbie MacPherson, who leads the secretariat for Westminster’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Climate, said: “The Prime Minister must listen to leaders around the country who can see the obvious benefits – to our pockets and our health, to communities and the environment – from taking action to tackle the climate crisis.

“Towns, cities and regions across Britain must not be left behind in the transition to a globally green economy because of the scepticism of a small group in Westminster. The Prime Minister must take the threat of climate change – and the many opportunities from getting on with dealing with it – seriously.”

Speaking to LBC radio this week just hours before jetting to California for a holiday at Disneyland with his wife and two daughters, Mr Sunak insisted: “I care about net-zero. I've got two young kids - I care about leaving them an environment and the climate in a better state than we found it and I found it in. But we're going to do that in a proportionate and in a pragmatic way.”

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Ben Glaze

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