PROFILE: Can Alok Sharma president of COP26 win over doubters?

Alok Sharma’s appointment as president of COP26 is proving a controversial one.

Political rivals, NGOs and activists were quick to voice their concerns at the move, highlighting his voting record on environmental issues.

Do they have a point?

According to the website They Work For You, then perhaps. The statistics suggest his track record is mixed, predominately unsupportive of the climate movement, and flip flopping on the issue of an expansion of Heathrow.

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It includes voting against setting targets. His full voting record can be accessed here.

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and former co-leader of the Green Party at Westminster, said: “The critical UN climate summit is being placed in the hands of a minister who has voted 15 times against measures to tackle the climate emergency

“This is not commitment. Our climate, and the UK’s reputation, cannot afford someone who is so lukewarm on biggest challenge we face.”

DEPBSO

Alex Chisholm and Alok Sharma

Patrick Harvie, co leader of the Scottish Green Party, said: “The decision to put COP26 in the hand of the Business Secretary, a man who has repeatedly voted against climate action, confirms the worst expectations of Boris Johnson’s government.”

Clive Lewis, the Labour MP for Norwich, was also quick to criticise the appointment.

He said:”Alok Sharma has an abysmal voting record on all things climate.

“This Government’s blatant disregard for tackling the biggest issue of our time is galling.”

Carbon Brief editor Leo Hickman did some digging into the new minister’s background with this Tweet:

 

His official record of interests also shows a £15,000 payment being accepted by the minister from Offshore Group Newcastle. They are involved in the production of platforms for oil and gas companies. Wind energy also features.

The Scottish Daily Record’s Westminster editor Torcuil Crichton predicted the appointment could lead to a bitter “turf war” for COP26 with the SNP government.

 

Activists at Extinction Rebellion also hit out.

They said: “Powerful governments compromised by even more powerful private interests have made sure the UN climate talks have spent the last 30 years failing.

“Appointing an MP who who voted against climate action in parliament to head the UN talks won’t fix them.”

But a Tweet from the official @COP26 account was quick to welcome the new minister in charge, pictured earlier with the Permanent Secretary Alex Chisholm, who also becomes Business Secretary in the new look Cabinet.

 

He was previously Secretary of State for International Development from 24 July 2019 to 13 February 2020, and Minister of State for Employment at the Department of Work and Pensions from 9 January 2018 until 24 July 2019 – during the roll out of the controversial Universal Credit scheme.

He was Minister of State for Housing and Planning, for the Department for Communities and Local Government from 13 June 2017 to 9 January 2018.

He was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 17 July 2016 to 13 June 2017.

He has served as a member of the Commons Treasury select committee, a member of the Commons Science and Technology select committee, a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Treasury and from 2012 to 2015 as a Conservative Party Vice Chairman. Alok was appointed in 2016 as the Prime Minister’s Infrastructure Envoy to India.

He also served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP, the former Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who had overall responsibility for the Cabinet Office. He was elected as the Conservative MP for Reading West in May 2010.

A qualified chartered accountant, the 52 year old was born in India, before moving to Reading when he was five years old.

Married with two children, he was elected as MP for Reading West in 2010.

IMAGE CREDITS: UK Government

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