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PM may shun sustainability summit

Tom Wall07/03/2012 - 13:00

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First earth summit was in Rio (Photo: Breogan67)
First earth summit was in Rio (Photo: Breogan67)

Prime minister David Cameron is ‘unlikely’ to come to a major UN environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The Number 10 press office told EHN that Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, would lead the delegation to the Rio+20 sustainability summit but the PM was 'unlikely' to attend.

This follows assurances by environment minister Richard Benyon in a Commons debate on 28 February that Mr Cameron regarded the summit as an ‘absolute priority’.

‘The prime minister thinks that this is an absolute priority. The secretary of state will be going, and whether or not the prime minister can go will be announced in the near future,’ he said.

It may disappoint the UN, which reportedly moved the summit to 20-22 June to avoid a clash with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations on 5 June.

Joan Walley MP, who chairs the environmental audit committee and is a CIEH vice president, said she was ‘very concerned’ that Number 10 officials were suggesting Mr Cameron would not be attending.

‘There is a real danger the UK will be sidelined and Number 10 will be seen to be in-hoc to the chancellor George Osborne who is for economic growth at all costs without any environmental safeguards,’ she said.

MPs from all parties have warned the UK could be marginalised. Martin Horwood, Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat MP, urged the prime minister to attend in a Commons debate organised by Ms Walley.

The Rio+20 summit takes place 20 years after the first ever UN earth summit, which was also held in Rio de Janeiro. It aims to put the global economy on a sustainable footing by reducing poverty and environmental degradation. Some countries are pushing for sustainable development goals to replace the existing millennium development goals, which expire in 2015.

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