Boris Johnson put a cabinet minister in charge of the Cop26 climate change summit last week following a warning from Joe Biden’s team that there was no “heavy hitter” running the show.
In the first sign of the US president-elect flexing his muscles with the UK, Biden’s climate change pointman John Kerry complained before Christmas that if Britain wanted to be taken seriously it would need to get a grip on preparations for the summit, which Britain is hosting in Glasgow in November.
Alok Sharma gave up his cabinet job as business secretary on Friday to concentrate on Cop26 full-time. But his appointment comes after Johnson’s approaches to David Cameron and Theresa May last year were rejected.
Johnson’s response to the pressure from Kerry, himself a former presidential candidate, comes amid concern that the prime minister’s relationship with Donald Trump will damage relations with Biden, particularly after Trump’s supporters smashed their way into Congress last week.
A senior Tory said: “John Kerry phoned one of his old contacts in London and the message was relayed to No 10 that Cop is the thing Biden really cares about.
“If you want to have a relationship with him get serious about Cop and get someone serious to do it.”