The former head of the COP26 climate conference, Sir Alok Sharma, has confirmed he will stand down from Parliament at the next election, just days after Rishi Sunak’s climbdown on net zero.
Sir Alok, who headed the international Glasgow climate conference under Boris Johnson in 2021, had become one of the most vocal proponents of pro-green policies in the Conservative Party – and was in post when several of the policies ripped up by Mr Sunak were drawn up.
In a letter shared on social media, Sir Alok did not specifically criticise Mr Sunak but said he would use his remaining time in Parliament to champion “the causes I care deeply about, especially climate action”.
He said: “This has not been an easy decision for me. It has been the honour of my life to serve as the MP for a constituency in the town where I grew up and a privilege to serve in Government and represent the UK on the international stage.
“My grateful thanks to all the constituents, local organisations, charities and businesses I have had the pleasure of working with, since being selected as the parliamentary candidate in 2006, as we have campaigned together on a whole range of issues to make our local area a better place to live and work.
“I will continue to support my Conservative colleagues and serve my constituents diligently for the remainder of my time as an MP, as well as champion in Parliament the causes I care deeply about, especially climate action.”
Sir Alok was first elected as MP for Reading West in 2010, and held the seat with a majority of 4,000 in 2019.
Planned boundary changes are set to see his constituency replaced in 2024 with the new seat of Reading West and Mid Berkshire, but the MP said he had informed the local Conservative association he would not seek adoption in the new seat.
Sir Alok has so far steered clear of joining direct attacks on Mr Sunak after he last week pushed back key climate targets – including plans to end the sale of new gas boilers and petrol and diesel cars.
However, he told the Observer on Sunday that “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”.
He welcomed Mr Sunak’s continued commitment to meeting the legally-binding net zero targets, however.
The MP previously questioned Mr Sunak’s commitment to climate issues last year after Downing Street said he would not attend the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.
At the time, Sir Alok told The Sunday Times: “I’m disappointed that the PM is not going. I understand that he’s got a huge in-tray of domestic issues that he has to deal with. But going to COP27 would allow for engagement with other world leaders. I think it does send a signal – if the PM were to go – about our renewed commitment on this issue.”
Mr Sunak did ultimately attend the summit.