King Charles laughs with Rishi Sunak and kisses Stella McCartney at Buckingham Palace COP27 summit
King Charles III enjoyed a hilarious moment with Stella McCartney and the Prime Minister today as he hosted a Buckingham Palace reception for business figures ahead of the Cop27 summit.
The monarch welcomed more than 200 guests to the central London royal residence including Rishi Sunak who reversed his decision to skip the UN climate change summit in Egypt next week, bowing to pressure from activists, his own environment adviser and Boris Johnson.
As guests arrived, Charles kissed Stella McCartney before meeting the Prime Minister. The fashion designer laughed and told the King: ‘Your Majesty, I don’t know what to do anymore. I think I’m supposed to do this now’, before curtseying for the monarch, who laughed uproariously – as did the Prime Minister.
Mr Sunak, who was also seen talking to Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey, was among a small group of VIPs who met the King in a separate room before the main reception was held in the ballroom and the Prime Minister gave a short address to those invited such as US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.
In the state dining room were leading figures including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Sir Pascal Soriot, chief executive AstraZeneca, former New York Mayor and business news mogul Mike Bloomberg, yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur whose foundation is working to tackle climate change.
Despite No 10’s U-turn, the King is still not planning to attend the Egyptian summit. Downing Street acknowledged on Thursday that the King might have been able to join delegates in Egypt if the prime minister had been in office earlier in the year.
When Liz Truss was premier, a ‘unanimous agreement’ was reached that the King should not attend after advice was sought by his office from the Government.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said on Thursday it was now not ‘logistically feasible’ for the King to join the international gathering at Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
She said about Mr Sunak, who only took office last week following the dramatic resignation of Ms Truss: ‘We do recognise that had the Prime Minister been in post earlier, the situation might have been different but it is not logistically feasible at this late stage.’
Charles and Rishi Sunak laugh while speaking to Stella McCartney, watched by US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
The King kissed Stella McCartney before meeting the Prime Minister. The fashion designer laughed and told the King: ‘I don’t know what to do anymore. I think I’m supposed to do this now’, before curtseying for the monarch who laughed, as did Rishi Sunak (right)
King Charles III speaks with, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Cop26 President Alok Sharma (left) and Stella McCartney, during a reception at Buckingham Palace
The King has decided not to go to Egypt despite a U-turn by the PM
King Charles III arrives for a reception for world leaders, business figures, environmentalists and NGOs at Buckingham Palace
Britain’s King Charles III (L) speaks with Brian Moynihan (2nd L), Chair and CEO of Bank of America and Co-Chair of Sustainable Markets Initiative, John Kerry (C), US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Britain’s President for COP26 Alok Sharma
His Majesty heard from guests about practical measures to combat climate change and their plans for COP27 and beyond
A Buckingham Palace spokesman reiterated there had been ‘unanimous agreement’ with the Government that the King would not travel to Egypt for the summit.
Cop26 president Alok Sharma, who will be handing over the UK’s presidency to Egypt at the summit, has been invited to the palace reception where Mr Sunak gave a short speech.
Mr Sunak’s U-turn came as his predecessor Boris Johnson confirmed he would attend, having made the environment a key plank of his premiership. But they will not be sharing a plane.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Sunak said: ‘There is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change. There is no energy security without investing in renewables.
‘That is why I will attend Cop27 next week: to deliver on Glasgow’s legacy of building a secure and sustainable future.’
The PM previously said he had to focus on Britain’s ‘depressing domestic challenges’ but faced growing pressure to join other world leaders at the conference next week.
Mr Sunak changed his mind on attending the Sharm El-Sheikh gathering after making ‘good progress’ on those domestic matters, including the Autumn Statement later this month, according to Downing Street.
‘He has always recognised the importance of this summit and indeed on tacking climate change more generally,’ said the PM’s official spokesman.
‘We wanted to make sure we were making good progress on the Government’s domestic agenda and the Autumn Statement in particular.
‘Following discussions with the Chancellor (Jeremy Hunt) this week he has now agreed to attend. The PM feels there is sufficient space to make this trip.’
The spokesman said Mr Sunak was hoping to make progress on the commitment to halt deforestation by 2030 and to agree new partnerships on clean and renewable energy.
He added there was ‘unanimous agreement’ that King Charles will still not attend Cop27, despite Mr Sunak’s decision to go.
The PM’s predecessor, Liz Truss, is claimed to have objected to His Majesty attending the Egypt summit during an audience at Buckingham Palace last month.
A Palace spokesperson said: ‘As has been made clear previously, in unanimous agreement with Government His Majesty will not be attending Cop27.
‘His focus is on the pre-Cop reception at Buckingham Palace, where senior business leaders, experts and NGOs can discuss the important work of the summit and explore ways in which public-private partnership can help tackle climate change.
‘His Majesty looks forward to hosting the PM and other global leaders at the event.’
Responding to Mr Sunak’s U-turn on Cop27, Labour’s shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: ‘The PM has been shamed into going to Cop27 by the torrent of disbelief that he would fail to turn up.
‘He is going to avoid embarrassment, not to provide leadership.’
The change came after Mr Sunak’s predecessor Boris Johnson confirmed he would attend, having made the environment a key plank of his premiership
Writing on Twitter Mr Sunak said: ‘There is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change. There is no energy security without investing in renewables.’
Buckingham Palace has confirmed that King Charles will still stay away from the event, having been told by Mr Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss to stay away
Labour had called Sunak’s decision to skip Cop27 a ‘massive failure of leadership’. Britain hosted Cop26 last year and holds its presidency until the start of the next summit.
The Prime Minister’s own climate adviser Alok Sharma had said he was ‘disappointed’ that Mr Sunak was not planning to attend.
But he praised the PM’s U-turn. The outgoing Cop26 president tweeted: ‘Delighted that @RishiSunak is attending Cop27 – completely agree with his comment that ”there is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change”.’
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said Mr Sunak had been ‘dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing’ after he committed to attend the Cop27 climate summit. ‘Embarrassing,’ she added.
The decision of Mr Johnson – Mr Sunak’s arch-rival and former Downing Street neighbour – to attend made it even harder for the PM to resist going.
Mr Johnson told Sky News last night that he would be attending, adding: ‘I was invited by the Egyptians so I’m very happy to go.’
Asked if his successor in No 10 should go too, he said Mr Sunak has a ‘massive amount to do’ with the Government’s domestic agenda, adding: ‘I happen to have a particular interest.’
Mr Johnson argued it has become ‘unfashionable’ to talk about Cop26, which he hosted in Glasgow last year.
‘I want to talk a little bit about how I see things and how we see things in the UK,’ Mr Johnson added.
Initially Downing Street said Mr Sunak would not be attending because he must focus on the ‘depressing domestic challenges’, as he works on the autumn budget.
But on Monday he changed tack, with No 10 saying that the decision was now ‘under review’ as ‘substantial progress’ was being made on his economic plans.
Rachel Kennerley, international climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: ‘It would have been a remarkable own goal for the Prime Minister to miss this year’s UN climate talks as the UK’s own presidency draws to a close, so it’s good that he’s seen sense and decided to attend.
‘But simply showing up won’t be enough. The UK government has a lot of work to do to rebuild its climate reputation after a year of rowing back on commitments made in Glasgow.
‘The PM quashed plans to revive fracking which was a good start to his tenure. If the UK expects to be taken seriously at the negotiating table, then the government must scrap plans for new oil and gas in the North Sea and say no to the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years.’