I was genuinely shocked by the news, just over a week ago, that our ex-MP (Claire Perry O’Neil) has been sacked as president of COP26.
As reported at the time by Marlborough News Online: “I’m shocked. I may not have agreed with everything that Claire Perry O’Neill said, but she was genuinely committed to getting a good result from Cop26. Everything now depends upon who replaces her and when.”
“If a heavy hitting senior Tory with a record of campaigning for action is appointed quickly, and sits in cabinet, then maybe this could still be a positive step. Hopefully, we’ll get some indication on Tuesday.”
I have written, before, about how important this conference is to prevent dangerous climate change. It’s no exaggeration to say that Claire has lost the most important job in the World. So what’s happened since?
A couple of things have struck me about the sacking and the aftermath. Firstly, that the government chose “Brexit Day” to do this. It’s hard to think of a better day if you want to avoid detailed scrutiny! I’ve also been struck by the inability of the Government to find an immediate replacement.
If the sacking was because the government wishes to ensure the best possible outcome from COP26 then, surely, they’d have a replacement President lined up, someone with real clout who can hit the ground running.
Instead, last Tuesday, we had an inadequate announcement concerning the marginal issue of when exactly we ban combustion engines, along with a Prime Ministerial appearance at the Science Museum accompanied only by a celebrity (OK, it was the marvellous Sir David Attenborough but even so!).
My gloom and despondency deepened when I heard that neither William Hague nor David Cameron wished to do the job. It’s not that I think they’d have been better at the job than Claire Perry O’Neil (although I do think WH would have been excellent). It’s more that this makes me wonder what they know that I don’t.
I think either of them would have jumped at a chance to do “the most important job in the world” if they actually believed COP26 will be successful.
I can only conclude that preventing climate change is not a high priority for our government and that what we’ve seen is just grubby politics—jockeying for position and influence that has pushed aside an ex-cabinet member who is no longer able to watch her own back let alone fight in government for the big decisions that need to be taken.
Why else didn’t the Prime Minister even have the courtesy to phone Mrs O’Neil himself to explain the decision?
I hope I’m wrong, I hope our government has a detailed plan of action and I hope that COP26 will still be the success our planet needs it to be. I’ll be the first to applaud if that dream comes true.
11 February 2020