“A rule for them”: Alok Sharma criticized for flights to 30 countries | Alok sharma
Alok Sharma, the government minister responsible for vital UN climate talks, faces calls to isolate himself on his return from Brazil, after being hit by a double barrage of criticism for not being put in quarantine on his return from “red list” countries and for the environmental impact of his travels around the world.
The president of Cop26, who is hosted in Glasgow in October and November, has visited 30 countries since February, including Brazil, where he visited this week, Indonesia and Kenya, we learned.
Although he had traveled to six countries on the government’s “red list” for travel, he was not required to self-isolate, according to the Daily Mail. The revelations came as the government added countries including Mexico to its red list, derailing many people’s summer vacation 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 to a primary school.
With Sharma currently in Brazil, where the P1 and P2 variants have emerged, he now faces pressure to show that he is not above the rules to which the public is subject.
Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Munira Wilson said: “It seems incredible that this government never seems to learn a lesson; it just cannot be a rule for them and a rule for everyone.
“Whether or not he should go to the Red Countries on his tour is up for debate – but whether he should self-isolate upon his return is not.
“The Conservatives have made a terrible mess of international travel since March of last year and it has cost thousands of lives.”
Sharma has also been criticized for not setting an example when trying to encourage others to reduce their emissions. But Downing Street said face-to-face talks were sometimes essential as Sharma tried to persuade major emitters to cut emissions and secure ambitious action ahead of the Cop26 summit.
Welsh Prime Minister Mark Drakeford told Sky News: “I’m afraid this really undermines the effort that we know everyone has to make. We are all used to meeting people in different parts of the world without needing to travel the world to do so.
“And when we try to persuade people to make the changes they need, we have to do, in our daily lives, in our own homes, in our own homes, the way we think about the contribution we can make, we need the people at the top to show that they are doing it too, without thinking that it is for others to carry this burden.
David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, said Sharma’s behavior shows ‘it’s one rule for them and another for us’ and ‘feels like he’s not setting an example’ .
The Labor MP told the broadcaster: ‘Well the optics are very clear – it’s a 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 necessary, but this amount of international travel when you are the climate change minister strikes me as weird and seems to me not to set an example.”
Greens colleague Jenny Jones, who has previously accused the former business minister of being “excessive” and “hypocritical”, added on Friday that Sharma’s flights to France and Belgium “could hardly be faster than the rail if we take into account the ability to work efficiently in the train ”.
Most of Sharma’s trips took place during the winter and spring months, when international travel from the UK was mostly banned.
He visited India, Costa Rica, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in March, while in April he visited South Korea and Japan before heading to Bangladesh in June.
Not all 30 known trips were round-trip flights to the UK, but trips to and from all destinations would total 200,000 miles, the equivalent of eight times circling 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 reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “As COP president, Alok Sharma is leading climate negotiations with countries, including major emitters, to reduce emissions and ensure ambitious action ahead of the summit. the Cop26.
“The majority of this work is done remotely, but some travel to key countries for face-to-face interviews is essential. He got ambitious action as a result of the discussions he had.
The spokesperson added: “Ministers on essential trips like this are exempt from quarantine, as per the rules. “
When asked if Sharma would self-quarantine upon his return from Brazil, where he is now, the spokesperson said: “He will continue to abide by the rules set out.”