Former US vice president and climate champion Al Gore has accused the British government of being “in the pocket of fossil fuel companies” in a blow to Rishi Sunak.
The comment came at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, where the UK prime minister was already facing questions about his commitment to the environment.
Sunak spent just 11 hours at the conference, but he suggested the UK’s influence should be judged instead by its material achievements – arguing the country has a better track record than any other major economy in decarbonising.
He ended the visit by announcing new investment for the world’s biggest offshore wind project off the British coast.
But Sunak has faced criticism for scaling back a host of pledges designed to help the UK reach net zero by 2050 and vowed to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves by granting new North Sea drilling licences.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Gore – who first raised the alarm about climate change with his documentary An Inconvenient Truth – suggested Britain’s green credentials had diminished.
He said: “It’s sad for those of us who have in the past pointed to the UK as an example of really inspiring leadership. And I thought King Charles’ speech today was an example of great leadership. But the government of the UK is now, seemingly, in the pocket of fossil fuel companies.”
The king, known for his decades of climate campaigning, is the only head of state who addressed world leaders at this year’s summit.
He reminded the 167 world leaders present on Friday that “the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth”, and that this is an “unmissable opportunity” to act together to safeguard the planet.
Pointing out how much worse the climate crisis has become in just the last few years, King said: “Our choice now is a starker – and darker – one: how dangerous are we actually prepared to make our world?”