During Rishi Sunak’s first week as Prime Minister, the Net Zero Review’s call for evidence closed, paving the way for the Review to conclude and report back by the end of the year. That process remains ongoing, and the independent nature of the Review suggests that it will not substantively be affected by the new Prime Minister.
An approach which is less dominated by the need for short-term economics to come ahead of long-term social and environmental outcomes could provide greater scope for a more positive outcome to emerge once the Review reports back.
At the same time, early indications suggest that the new Prime Minister will not be taking the opportunity to take a leading role in raising global ambitions for climate action. In his first week as Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak indicated that he did not plan to attend COP27, though he is reportedly keeping that decision under review. In addition, COP26 President Alok Sharma was removed from the Cabinet, so he won’t be in those key meetings during the final stretch ahead of the Summit.
Neither of those early indicators is enough to make projections about the future of the UK’s climate policy, and there are signs that point towards different directions of travel. For now, the challenge for the Prime Minister will be to find an approach to climate change that genuinely meets the UK’s obligations, and to raise ambitions so that the rest of the world follows suit, whether or not he attends COP27 itself.