Boris Johnson sounded out two former Conservative leaders, David Cameron and William Hague, to serve as the figurehead of this year’s UN climate change conference in Glasgow, The Times can reveal.
However, the former prime minister and Lord Hague of Richmond turned down the offer to take a leading role at this November’s COP26 summit, raising fresh questions over the event.
Mr Johnson has identified hosting the UN conference — secured last year with the backing of France and Germany — as a key part of his diplomatic drive to present Britain as a world leader after Brexit.
Some 90,000 people, including world leaders, are expected at the summit, the biggest event hosted by the British government since the 2012 Olympics. Preparations have been dogged by rows with Scotland over the cost and policing.
The summit is deemed critical to keeping the Paris climate agreement on track as nations are due to commit to specific action to reduce global warming. Its success is far from assured after the withdrawal of the US.
Climate campaigners have been urging Mr Johnson to secure a big-hitter to get the talks on track. The role would involve extensive travel to cajole national governments and institutions such as the EU. During the summit itself, the president effectively acts as its chairman.
Concerns over the summit’s leadership came to light last week when Mr Johnson sacked the former energy minister Claire O’Neill as its president.
She exacted revenge yesterday, savaging the prime minister’s green credentials by saying that he had privately admitted he “doesn’t really understand” climate change.