Have been researching Alok Sharma MP a bit more this morning (14/9); amazing what you can find:
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MP and climate summit president Alok Sharma criticised for ‘excessive’ air travel and avoiding quarantine
Political leaders have accused Cop26 president Alok Sharma of “hypocrisy” after it emerged he has flown to at least 30 countries this year in the run-up to the climate summit. Sharma also attracted criticism for failing to self-isolate after visits to red-list countries, most recently Bolivia and Brazil, by relying on rules exempting ministers from quarantine.
“Get-out-of-jail free” card
The former secretary of state for business remains in Brazil where he’s meeting with state and business leaders in a bid to get them to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Liberal Democrat spokesperson Sarah Olney MP accused him of treating flexible rules for Crown servants as a “get-out-of-jail free” card.
As usual with this Government, it’s one rule for them and another for everybody else.
While Alok Sharma flies to red-list countries with abandon, hard-working families can hardly see loved ones or plan holidays as the Government changes travel rules on the hoof.
People are sick of the Government giving themselves get-out-of-jail free passes while the rest of us stick to the rules.
‘One rule for them’: Alok Sharma criticised over flights to 30 countries
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Cop26 president accused of undermining climate effort after visiting 30 countries in seven months
Alok Sharma, the government minister responsible for vital UN climate talks, is facing calls to self-isolate when he returns from Brazil, after he was hit with a double barrage of criticism for not quarantining when returning from “red-list” countries and for the environmental impact of his trips around the world.
The president of Cop26, which is being hosted in Glasgow in October and November, has visited 30 countries since February, including Brazil, where he has been this week, Indonesia and Kenya, it was reported.
Despite travelling to six countries on the government’s travel “red list” he was not required to isolate, according to the Daily Mail. The revelations came as the government added countries including Mexico to its red list, scuppering many people’s summer holiday plans.
The Mail also reported that Sharma had an indoor meeting – without masks – with Prince Charles days after returning from Bangladesh (a red list country) before going on a visit to a primary school.
With Sharma currently in Brazil, where the P1 and P2 variants emerged, he is now facing pressure to show he is not above the rules the public are subject to.
The Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, Munira Wilson, said: “It seems incredible that this government never seems to learn the lesson; it simply cannot be one rule for them and one rule for everyone else.
“Whether or not he should be going to red countries on his tour is up for debate – but whether he should be self-isolating when he returns is not.
“The Conservatives have made a terrible mess of international travel since March last year and it has cost many thousands of lives.”
Sharma has also been criticised for not leading by example when attempting to encourage others to reduce emissions. But Downing Street said face-to face talks were essential on occasion as Sharma tried to persuade major emitters to cut emissions and secure ambitious action ahead of the Cop26 summit.
The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, told Sky News: “I’m afraid I do think it really undermines the effort that we know everybody has to make. We’ve all got used to having meetings with people in different parts of the world without needing to travel around the world to do it.
“And when we’re trying to persuade people to make the changes they need to make, we need to make, in our daily lives, transport, in our own homes, in the way that we think about the contribution we can make, we need the people at the very top to be demonstrating that they are doing that too, not thinking that that is for other people to carry that burden.”
David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, said Sharma’s behaviour demonstrated that “it’s one rule for them and another rule for us” and “feels to not be setting the example”.
The Labour MP told the broadcaster: “Well, the optics are very clear – it’s one rule for them and another rule for us, whether it’s Dominic Cummings, whether it’s Matt Hancock, whether it’s Alok Sharma.
“Of course some international travel is required, but this amount of international travel when you’re climate change minister feels to me bizarre, and feels to not be setting the example.”
The Green party peer Jenny Jones, who has already accused the former business minister of being “excessive” and “hypocritical”, on Friday added that Sharma’s flights to France and Belgium “could hardly be faster than rail if you take into account the ability to work efficiently on the train”.
Most of Sharma’s trips were during the winter and spring months when international travel from the UK was mostly banned.
He visited India, Costa Rica, Qatar and UAE in March, while in April he travelled to South Korea and Japan before going to Bangladesh in June.
Not all of the 30 known trips were return flights to the UK, but travel to and from all the destinations would total 200,000 miles, or the equivalent to eight times around the Earth.
The delayed Cop26 conference will mark the first time since the 2015 Paris climate change conference that countries will set ambitious new targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “As Cop president, Alok Sharma is leading climate negotiations with countries including major emitters to cut emissions and secure ambitious action ahead of the Cop26 summit.
“The majority of this work is done remotely but some travel to key countries for face-to-face talks is essential. He has secured ambitious action as a result of the discussions he has had.”
The spokesperson added: “Ministers conducting essential travel such as this are exempted from quarantine, as set out in the rules.”
Asked if Sharma would quarantine on his return from Brazil, where he is currently, the spokesperson said: “He will continue to comply with the rules as set out.”