RISHI Sunak has been accused of a “massive failure of leadership” after backing out of attending the COP27 climate summit - while Nicola Sturgeon is set to attend and represent Scotland.

Liz Truss was scheduled to attend the United Nations climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, but Downing Street said on Thursday that Sunak would instead focus on “pressing domestic commitments”.

Number 10 also confirmed the demotion of the position of environment minister as Graham Stuart was reappointed to the role but stripped of his entitlement to attend Cabinet.

Downing Street insisted the Prime Minister remains “absolutely committed” to supporting the climate conference hosted in Glasgow last year, denying he was downgrading the importance of tackling the climate crisis.

Earlier this year, opposition parties had attacked First Minister Sturgeon for planning to attend the major UN climate conference

The Tories accused her of prioritising international networking over the cost-of-living crisis, with MSP Sharon Dowey saying she wouldn't "get money to families struggling with energy bills by schmoozing foreign leaders at COP27 in Egypt".

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon has a key role to play at COP27 in Egypt

The Scottish Government has yet to confirm whether Sturgeon is still going ahead with the visit.

Labour’s shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband has slammed Sunak for pulling out.

The National: Shadow climate change and net zero secretary Ed Miliband Ed Miliband during the Labour Party conference at the ACC Liverpool

He said: “This is a massive failure of climate leadership. We were the COP26 hosts and now the UK Prime Minister isn’t even bothering to turn up to COP27.

“What Rishi Sunak obviously fails to understand is that tackling the climate crisis isn’t just about our reputation and standing abroad, but the opportunities for lower bills, jobs, and energy security it can deliver at home.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Greens energy and environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP said the move was "shameful" and warned of potential long-term consequences. 

“Rishi Sunak’s failure to go to COP27 is unforgivable, reckless and should sound alarm bells across the globe about the kind of climate denying Prime Minister he may turn out to be," he said. 

“Given the historical part it has played in creating the crisis, the UK should be at the front of the queue offering bold, transformational leadership on solving the climate emergency, not hiding under a Downing Street desk.

“It is a dereliction of duty, and abdication of his responsibility and sends a very dangerous message to the rest of the world that when it comes to our planet, he cares less about the next generation than he does about the next General Election.

Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and now Rishi Sunak will go down in history as being the Prime Ministers who robbed our children of their futures, the ones who drilled for more oil and gas but then couldn’t be bothered to turn up to explain why.

“It is utterly shameful and puts our net zero commitments at very real risk. There must be a General Election now to get them out of power, before the lights go out for good.”

South of the Border, Green MP Caroline Lucas said “shame on” Sunak, adding: “The first test of leadership is to turn up. The new PM’s decision not to attend COP27 makes a mockery of any Government claims on continued climate leadership – and what a shameful way to end the UK’s COP Presidency.”

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A Downing Street spokesperson said Sunak was focusing on domestic issues including preparations for the autumn budget, which has been delayed from Monday to November 17.

“The Prime Minister is not expected to attend COP27 and this is due to other pressing domestic commitments including preparations for the Autumn Budget,” she told reporters.

She said the UK will be “fully represented” by COP26 President Alok Sharma, who also lost his seat around Sunak’s Cabinet this week, and “other senior ministers”.

“We remain committed to net zero and to leading international and domestic action to tackle climate change. The UK is forging ahead of many other countries on net zero,” she said.

“We will obviously continue to work closely with Egypt as the hosts of Cop27 and to make sure that all countries are making progress on the historic commitments they made at the Glasgow climate pact.”