MPs urge Rishi Sunak to attend biodiversity summit in Canada

Tory backbenchers are among 40 parliamentarians who asked PM to ‘stand up for nature’ at talks

Forty parliamentarians, including seven Conservative MPs, have privately written to Rishi Sunak imploring him to attend the Cop15 biodiversity conference, which starts next week.

In the letter, seen by the Guardian and organised by the all-party parliamentary group on the environment, the parliamentarians warn that a million species are facing extinction globally and that lack of high-level political buy-in could spell disaster for nature.

Sunak is understood to have no plans to attend, sending the environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, in his stead.

But Tory backbenchers are among those who have asked him to stand up for nature by taking to the world stage in Montreal. The group wrote: “The absence of high-level engagement by heads of government around the world puts Cop15 at risk of failure.

“Along with our Canadian counterparts … we fear that the lack of high-level political attention and buy-in could mean a replication of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, where talks fell apart. We cannot afford for that to happen.

“Today, we encourage you to stand up for nature by attending Cop15, holding bilateral meetings with other heads of government, and raising ambition to halt and reverse nature’s decline by 2030.”

There are concerns that the government does not take biodiversity collapse as seriously as it has taken the climate emergency, and this was made clear in the letter. It reads: “We hope that the same leadership the UK has demonstrated on climate will be extended to fight for an ambitious global deal to protect nature at Cop15. With a million species facing extinction around the world there is no time to waste.”

The former prime minister Liz Truss had committed to attend during the summer leadership race.

In what may be deja vu for the prime minister, his predecessor Boris Johnson is understood to be planning to make an appearance at the summit. Many believe Sunak U-turned on his decision not to attend Cop27 in Egypt after Johnson declared he was attending.

The government’s chief nature adviser, Tony Juniper, recently said the summit was “the best and last chance” to halt and reverse the decline of nature.

Caroline Lucas MP, the vice-chair of the environment APPG, said: “The importance of Cop15 cannot be overstated – when nature is in crisis both at home and abroad, we cannot miss this crucial opportunity to protect and restore nature for generations to come.

“Not only must the government urgently set credible, comprehensive and deliverable nature targets but the prime minister must also lead by example and commit to attending Cop15 in person.”


Helena Horton Environment reporter

The GuardianTramp

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