COP27 began in Egypt last week as nations met to discuss action to meet collective climate goals and build on the commitments and ambitions of COP26 (held in Glasgow last year).
Ahead of the conference, it was announced that the new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, would not be attending the summit so he could dedicate his time to the current economic situation ahead of the fiscal statement due on November 17.
While we can all agree that the economic crisis – created in Downing Street by the Tories – requires laser focus, Sunak’s initial disregard for the importance of COP27 was very telling.
Now more than ever, it is essential that we as a country are doing all we can to tackle the climate emergency; but it seems once again that the Tories have under-estimated the scale of the challenge at hand.
Mere weeks after former Prime Minister Liz Truss U-turned on planning restrictions for onshore wind – one of the cheaper forms of renewable energy – Sunak decided to reverse that decision and reinstate the restrictions.
I was therefore very glad to hear that the Prime Minister later decided to attend the conference and represent the UK.
On Sunday, November 6, the same day that leaders from across the world met in Sharm el-Sheikh for the two-week climate summit, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, an imprisoned British-Egyptian citizen, announced that he would stop drinking water and escalate to a full-scale hunger strike in protest of his detention in Egypt.
Alaa became renowned for pro-democracy and free speech activism during the 2011 popular uprising in Egypt and has been detained numerous times over the past decade by Egyptian authorities for various offences, including “violating anti-protest laws”.
Some of Alaa’s family live in my Lewisham Deptford constituency and I have been grateful to meet with them to discuss Alaa’s ongoing fight for freedom.
I share their concern for his deteriorating health and last month visited them at their sit-in outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
In October, I worked with the family to send a crossbench letter signed by more than 60 MPs and Lords to the Foreign Secretary, calling for action by the UK Government to free Alaa.
I was therefore glad to hear that Rishi Sunak raised Alaa’s case with Egyptian President Sisi in the early days of COP27, expressing the country’s deep concern for Alaa’s welfare and the expectation that the human rights defender be released.
Since the start of COP27, Alaa’s family has become increasingly worried, demanding proof that he is still alive as they have been informed that he has “undergone medical intervention”.
The UK must continue to put diplomatic pressure on the Egyptian authorities, ensuring that we remain a leading light in pushing for human rights across the world.