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Sunak to Attend COP28 Summit Amid Green Policy Balancing Act

(Bloomberg) -- UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would attend the United Nations COP28 climate change conference in the UAE this winter, though warned against a “hair shirt” approach to green policies.

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“Net zero done in the right way can be very beneficial for jobs,” Sunak said to reporters at the G-20 summit in New Delhi, India. “The net zero story for me shouldn’t be a hair-shirt story of giving everything up and your bills going up.”

The premier is attempting a delicate balancing act with his green agenda, encouraging action on climate change on the world stage, while adopting more critical rhetoric at home, where he faces pressure from Conservative lawmakers to slow the pace of the green transition.

Sunak announced that the UK would commit £1.62 billion ($2 billion) to the Green Climate Fund, established at COP16 to finance developing countries’ response to the climate crisis, over the next four years. His office said the move “continues to show global climate leadership, having cut emissions faster than any other G-7 country,” according to a statement emailed on Saturday.

The pledge comes just weeks after Sunak announced he would approve hundreds of new oil and gas licenses in the North Sea in an effort to strengthen energy security. It followed a narrow victory in a special election in London, fueled by local opposition to new charges for vehicles falling below emissions standards. Tories interpreted the win as a sign that skepticism about green policies could be fertile ground ahead of a general election expected next year.

Read more: Britain Wobbles on Green Policies That Built Climate Legacy

Sunak had faced calls from lawmakers to attend the COP28 meeting in Dubai, which starts in November. He went to the COP27 event in Egypt in 2022, but only after u-turning on a previous decision not to go.

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