Sophie Wingate, PA Political Correspondent in Sharm El-Sheikh
Mon, 7 November 2022 at 10:04 pm
Rishi Sunak’s whistle-stop visit to the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt marked his first outing on the international stage since he entered No 10 a fortnight ago.
For a new Prime Minister who is relatively untested in diplomatic matters, the trip, speeches and string of meetings, all squeezed into one hectic day, appeared to go smoothly.
Here is a look at his notable moments at the major UN summit.
– Chummy meeting with Macron
Mr Sunak’s first in-person tete-a-tete with French President Emmanuel Macron started with a warm embrace, wide grins and convivial back slaps.
“Very nice to see you,” Mr Sunak told the French leader.
“Lots for us to talk about, right?” he added as the pair prepared for a full bilateral meeting.
Mr Macron jogged towards Mr Sunak when he first saw him, appearing pleased to have left the more strained “friend or foe” era of Anglo-French relations under Liz Truss behind.
Mr Sunak’s predecessor in No 10 caused controversy when she said “the jury’s out” when asked which one the French president represented.
Mr Sunak and Mr Macron chatted as they posed for photos at the Sharm El-Sheikh gathering, bonding over their flying 24-hour visits to the Red Sea resort.
Mr Sunak told reporters after the meeting: “It was great to meet President Macron to talk about not just tackling illegal migration but the range of other areas in which we want to cooperate closely with the French on”.
– National statement
Mr Sunak struck an optimistic tone as he took to the world stage for the first time at the UN summit.
In his key speech to the gathering of world leaders, the Prime Minister told a cavernous hall from the stage: “By honouring the promises we made in Glasgow and by directing public and private finance towards the protection of our planet, we can turn our struggle against climate change into a global mission for new jobs and clean growth.
“And we can bequeath our children a greener planet and a more prosperous future. “That’s a legacy we could be proud of.
“So as we come together once again in common cause today, there really is room for hope.”
He also announced the UK is tripling its funding to help nations adapt to the impacts of climate change to £1.5 billion by 2025.
– Refusing to be upstaged by Boris Johnson
Mr Sunak insisted he believed it was “great” that Mr Johnson, his predecessor in No 10 and enduring rival in the Conservative Party, was also at the summit.
Mr Johnson saying he would attend Cop27 added pressure on Mr Sunak to reverse his widely criticised initial decision to skip the gathering to focus on domestic challenges.
There was likely to have been been some concern among Mr Sunak’s entourage that he could be upstaged by the ex-Prime Minister, who is never one to shy away from the limelight.
Mr Johnson used a conference fringe event to warn Tories against going soft on climate change targets as he suggested that rising temperatures in Westminster may have contributed to his ousting.
“Oh, it’s great that the former prime minister is here,” Mr Sunak told broadcasters at the conference afterwards.
“And I think it says something great about the UK that not only have we got the current Prime Minister here, we’ve got a former prime minister here.
“It just demonstrates our leadership on this issue globally. And Boris was a stalwart champion of building a greener future. He deserves enormous credit and praise for that.”
– Launching forest partnership
The Prime Minister launched a new partnership to conserve the world’s forests at the UN conference.
The partnership builds on an initiative set up at last year’s Cop26 in Glasgow – under the UK’s presidency – and aims to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030.
Mr Sunak said protecting forests was “one of the best ways of getting us back on track” to limit warming to 1.5C – the threshold beyond which the worst impacts of climate change will be felt.
He said the launch marked “a moment of great hope for the world’s forests” and urged nations to “secure this wondrous legacy for our children and many generations to come”.
– More diplomacy
Mr Sunak appeared at ease in his meetings with other world leaders including Italy’s new far-right PM Giorgia Meloni and Israel’s President Isaac Herzog.
Mr Herzog praised Mr Sunak as a “great friend of Israel” in front of the cameras ahead of their full encounter.
The meetings could have been a good warm-up for further bilaterals at the G20 summit in Bali next week.
– Questions over detained activist
One issue that dogged Mr Sunak during his Egypt trip was the plight of jailed jailed British-Egyptian pro-democracy activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, whose family fears for his life as he is on hunger strike.
The PM was under pressure to raise the case with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and honoured his pledge to do so.
A Downing Street readout of their meeting said he “raised the case of Alaa Abd el-Fattah, stressing the UK Government’s deep concern on this issue.
“The Prime Minister said he hoped to see this resolved as soon as possible and would continue to press for progress.”