Alok Sharma to work full-time on Cop26 climate conference preparation

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Boris Johnson has moved his business secretary, Alok Sharma, to work full-time on preparations for the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow this November, a change urged by environmental experts given the scale of the role.

For the past 11 months, Sharma has combined being Cop26 president with his job as business secretary. He will now undertake the Cop role full-time, with Kwasi Kwarteng taking the business brief.

Kwarteng is currently the number two minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who was international development secretary until her department was merged with the Foreign Office in September, takes this job.

Cop26, which is expected to gather representatives from nearly 200 countries, was scheduled for last November, but was delayed for a year because of Covid. The government said the event would be the largest summit the United Kingdom has ever hosted.

Earlier this week, former ministers and climate change experts urged Johnson to make Sharma’s Cop role full-time. Amber Rudd, who as energy and climate secretary led the UK delegation to the successful Paris climate talks in 2015, said Sharma needed to devote “100% of his time, energy and persuasion to make it a success”.

Sir David King, a former government chief scientific adviser, said: “Good things are happening in BEIS. I hope the incoming secretary of state would continue this. Full-time on Cop26 for Sharma would definitely be a good thing.”

But at the time, government sources said no imminent reshuffle was expected because of the seriousness of the coronavirus situation, with changes expected to be delayed to summer or autumn.

Sharma’s role will be based in the Cabinet Office, and he will continue as a full member of cabinet, also leading on UK plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Sharma said: “The biggest challenge of our time is climate change and we need to work together to deliver a cleaner, greener world and build back better for present and future generations.

“Through the UK’s presidency of Cop26 we have a unique opportunity, working with friends and partners around the world, to deliver on this goal. Given the vital importance of tackling climate change I am delighted to have been asked by the prime minister to dedicate all my energies to this urgent task.”

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