Mon, 26 February 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Being a responsible, long-term partner to Britain Partner content
The Horticultural Trades Association’s new manifesto sets out ten key priorities for a sustainable future Partner content
Press releases

Sacked climate adviser Claire O'Neill in scathing attack on Boris Johnson's 'failure of leadership'

3 min read

Boris Johnson has been accused of a "failure of global vision and leadership" on climate change amid a bitter row with a sacked former adviser.

Claire O'Neill had been put in charge of preparations for the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow - but the Cabinet Office announced on Friday that it was axing the role in favour of a ministerial appointment.

That sacking has now prompted an angry pushback from the former Tory minister, who has used a scathing letter to the Prime Minister to accuse him of failing to take climate change seriously.

She said: "The cabinet sub-committee on climate that you promised to chair, and which I was to attend, has not met once.

“In the absence of your promised leadership… departments have fought internal Whitehall battles over who is responsible and accountable for (the conference)."

Ms O'Neill - who as Claire Perry represented Devizes for the Conservatives from 2010 until 2019 - reportedly clashed with officials over the structure of the talks.

She has also denied claims that she bullied civil servants - and has said she is considering legal action against the Government over her dismissal and what she has called "false, distorted and defamatory" briefings against her.

Taking direct aim at the Government's handling of the talks, she said: "There is a yawning gap between what the world expects from us and where we are. It’s a systemic failure of global vision and leadership."

And she added: "It became clear to me that the current format of the global talks needed to be re-energised and focused.

"The annual UN talks are dogged by endless rows over agendas, ongoing unresolved splits over who should pay and insufficient attention and funding for adaptation (to inevitable climate changes).

"It was particularly awful at the last conference in Madrid. While half a million climate action protestors gathered in the streets, I sat in plenary sessions where global negotiators debated whether our meeting should be classified as 'Informal' or 'Informal-Informal."

Ms O'Neill meanwhile accused Mr Johnson of refusing to set aside differences with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon over the hosting of the summit in Glasgow - and claimed he was now considering moving it to an "English location".

The bitter row threatens to overshadow a major speech from the Prime Minister on climate change.

Mr Johnson has confirmed that the Government will consult on banning diesel and petrol cars from sale five years earlier than planned.

Hybrid vehicles will also be considered as part of the ban, which would now come into force in 2035. 

Speaking ahead of the summit launch, Mr Johnson said: "Hosting COP26 is an important opportunity for the UK and nations across the globe to step up in the fight against climate change.

"As we set out our plans to hit our ambitious 2050 net zero target across this year, so we shall urge others to join us in pledging net zero emissions.

"There can be no greater responsibility than protecting our planet, and no mission that a global Britain is prouder to serve. 2020 must be the year we turn the tide on global warming - it will be the year when we choose a cleaner, greener future for all."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "This government's £1.5bn strategy to make owning an electric vehicle as easy as possible is working - last year alone, a fully electric car was sold every 15 minutes.

"We want to go further than ever before. That's why we are bringing forward our already ambitious target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to tackle climate change and reduce emissions."

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe