Former Cop26 president Alok Sharma to step down at general election

Ex-business secretary says it has been "a privilege to serve in government and represent the UK on the international stage"
Alok Sharma. Photo: Ian Davidson/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

28 Sep 2023

Ex-Cop26 president and business secretary Sir Alok Sharma has announced he will not stand at the next general election.

The Conservative MP for Reading West said it had “not been any easy decision” to depart, having held the seat since 2010. The Reading West seat is changing to Reading West & Mid Berkshire as part of changes to boundaries ahead of the next general election, which must take place by January 2025.

“It has been the honour of my life to serve as the MP for a constituency in the town where I grew up and privilege to serve in government and represent the UK on the international stage,” Sharma said in a statement posted on Twitter/X.

Sharma was president of Cop26 from January 2021 to November 2022, leading preparations for the UN climate change conference, which was held in Glasgow in November 2021. As part of the cabinet-level role, he also chaired the Climate Action Implementation Cabinet Committee, which coordinates government action towards reaching its 2050 net-zero target.

At the conference, a deal was agreed, which included a commitment to reduce the use of coal but hopes of agreeing an end to coal power and fossil fuel subsidies fell through after China and India pushed for the language to be changed from "phase out" to "phase down".

Sharma said he will continue to “champion” the causes he cares about in parliament, “especially climate action”, until his departure. The Reading West MP recently criticised announcements from Rishi Sunak delaying climate change commitments.

Sunak said he would delay the introduction of key measures designed to help the UK reach its target of becoming a net-zero carbon emissions economy, including pushing back the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by five years and moving the ban on selling new oil boilers from 2026 to 2035. He also promised a 50% boost in the value of Boiler Upgrade Scheme grants that support people fitting new heat pumps.

“Rolling back on certain policies will mean we need to find emissions reductions elsewhere if we are to meet our legally binding near term carbon budgets and our internationally committed 2030 emissions reduction target,” Sharma told the Observer.

Before becoming Cop26 president, Sharma was business secretary from February 2020 to January 2021, international development secretary from July 2019 to February 2020, and held several other ministerial roles, serving under four different prime ministers.

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