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7 November 2022

Boris Johnson tries to upstage his latest replacement at Cop27

The former PM’s call at the conference to “incarnate the spirit of Glasgow” is an attempt to burnish his legacy.

By Freddie Hayward

Apart from a speech in America to insurance brokers and three days of a failed Conservative leadership bid, Boris Johnson has been relatively quiet since he was ousted from No 10. But at the Cop27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt today, the former prime minister tried to spruce up his image by calling for countries to fulfil the promises made a year ago at Cop26 in Glasgow.

Johnson, at a New York Times fringe event, said his ambition was to “incarnate the spirit of Glasgow”. More accurately, it was an attempt to burnish his tainted legacy. He condemned those who want to “frack the hell out of the British countryside” and called for greater government cooperation with the private sector.

Johnson chastising his party on energy policy underlined his successor Rishi Sunak’s recent poor decisions. Even though Sunak has reinstated the fracking ban that Liz Truss tried to repeal during her brief time in office, his reputation on climate matters is decidedly mixed – especially given that he initially said he would not attend Cop27. That was not a wise move and the U-turn was inevitable. The UK was central to events this year because it was handing over the Cop presidency to Egypt, and it would not have been good for Sunak to miss a key international event so soon after taking up office (today, for example, he met Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, for the first time as Prime Minister).

Johnson’s speech also gave him the opportunity to frame his time in office as a high point for climate action by the UK – in contrast with his successors. Ultimately, Johnson’s intervention highlighted how badly the supposedly PR-savvy Sunak had mismanaged the conference.

[See also: What would make Cop27 a success?]

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