Cop27: Why These Three Famous Faces Might Not Go To This Year's Climate Conference

It's not just Rishi Sunak's attendance which is in question.
King Charles III, PM Rishi Sunak and Greta Thunberg may not attend Cop27
King Charles III, PM Rishi Sunak and Greta Thunberg may not attend Cop27

November’s Cop27 is set to take place in Egypt next week – but there will be a few key figures missing this year.

The 27th Conference of the Parties (known as Cop27 or the United Nations Climate Change Conference) will be held in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh from November 6 to 18.

It’s meant to help government agree to steps on limiting global temperature rises.

Despite the latest alarming report from UN Climate Change that countries are still not doing enough to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C by the end of the century, not everyone on last year’s guest list will attend this time around.

1. Greta Thunberg

Thunberg has confirmed that she will not be going to this year’s conference.

The renowned environmentalist first became famous for starting school strikes, encouraging pupils to walk out on Fridays until governments took more action over the climate crisis.

Thunberg, now 19, has since made headlines for taking on politicians such as former US president Donald Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron, and is praised for being an outspoken activist for action on the climate crisis.

But, at the end of Cop26 in Glasgow, Thunberg declared the conference a “failure”, and a “global north greenwashing festival”.

She also described the talks by politicians as “blah blah blah”.

“I’m not going to Cop27 for many reasons, but the space for civil society this year is extremely limited,” Thunberg said in October this year, when launching her upcoming book at London’s Southbank Centre.

She said: “The Cops are mainly used as an opportunity for leaders and people in power to get attention, using many different kinds of greenwashing.”

She said they “are not really meant to change the whole system”, as they encourage gradual process rather than intense reform.

“So as it is, the Cops are not really working, unless of course we use them as an opportunity to mobilise,” Thunberg added. “In order to change things, we need everyone – we need billions of activists.”

Thunberg also criticised the conference for taking place in Egypt, saying it’s a country which “violates many basic human rights”.

The activist also appeared to take aim at UK prime minister Rishi Sunak, who may not attend.

“Many world leaders are too busy to go there because they have their own problems. With that mindset we’re not going to be able to solve many of the problems that we face,” she said.

2. King Charles III

The monarch was instructed not to go to Cop27 by Downing Street, according to the prime minister’s spokesperson.

Charles was known for his keen environmentalism before he inherited the throne in September, at which point he had to become completely non-partisan.

He attended last year’s conference, and his mother the Queen addressed delegates via a video message.

Charles attending Cop26 in Glasgow, as the heir apparent
Charles attending Cop26 in Glasgow, as the heir apparent
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

But, earlier this year, Liz Truss’s government advised the monarch not to attend Cop27, and it seems Sunak is passing on the same recommendations.

Speaking on Friday, the spokesperson said: “Government advice was sought and provided under a previous prime minister, and it was unanimously agreed that it would not be the right occasion for the King to visit in person.

“I’m not aware that advice has changed.”

This came after environment secretary Therese Coffey told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that attendance was “a matter for the King”.

John Kerry, the US special envoy on climate change, also told Sky News that it would be “very powerful” if the King went.

The King is now scheduled to arrange a reception at Buckingham Palace on November 4, for 200 international business leaders, decision makers and charities to mark the end of the UK’s Cop presidency.

3. Rishi Sunak

The new prime minister has caused a major stir as Downing Street has still not revealed if he will definitely go.

It was recently reported that Sunak was going to focus on dealing with the UK’s “serious economic challenges” rather than go to conference, but that the government was still “absolutely committed” to tackling climate change.

“But we’re also very clear that the public should also judge us by our actions and we are forging ahead of many other countries on net zero, for example,” a spokesperson said.

Former culture secretary under Boris Johnson, Nadine Dorries, was quick to criticised, saying Sunak is “wrong” not to attend, as global warming is “the biggest crisis facing our planet”.

Labour’s climate change secretary Ed Miliband also called it a “massive failure of leadership”.

Then on Monday, No.10 suggested Sunak’s presence at the event was “under review”. If enough preparation is made on the autumn budget – meant to come out on November 17 – he may still attend.

“The prime minister fully recognises the importance of the COP summit and is fully committed to addressing climate change,” the spokesperson said.

Alok Sharma, the UK’s Cop26 president who was recently demoted from cabinet, has also said he was “pretty disappointed” at the new s he might not.

Environment minister Mark Spencer defended the prime minister on BBC Breakfast, saying Sunak has a “huge inbox” right now.

Meanwhile, there have been some reports that Johnson – who attended Cop26 as prime minister – might attend Cop27.

US president Joe Biden, France’s president Emmanuel Macron and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon are all expected to go.

Liz Truss was also prepared to attend when she was prime minister.

Sunak did attend last year, when he was chancellor under Johnson’s government.

Sunak attending Cop26 in 2021 when he was chancellor
Sunak attending Cop26 in 2021 when he was chancellor
DANIEL LEAL via Getty Images

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