THE UK's climate minister left final negotiations at COP28 to attend the vote on the Rwanda deal, as talks descended into chaos at the climate summit. 

The draft text for the COP28 deal has been slammed by politicians and climate activists for neglecting the phasing out of fossil fuels, as the climate conference reaches its final hours.

Number 10 confirmed on Tuesday that the UK Government’s climate minister Graham Stewart had been called back from COP28 to attend the vote on the Rwanda deal later this evening, but would reportedly be returning to Dubai. 

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Richard Benyon, a junior Lords minister in the Foreign Office, is now understood to be the only UK Government politician on the ground in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

First Minister Humza Yousaf condemned the decision taken in the final hours of the talks before the deal is finalised.

The National: The First Minister met with a number of foreign leaders at the Cop28 summit (Pete Summers/PA)

Commenting on Twitter/X, Yousaf said: “Being called back from negotiations relating to the biggest existential threat our planet faces in order to vote for an unworkable, morally repugnant piece of legislation, tells you everything you need to know about the UK Government.

SNP MPs will proudly oppose the Rwanda Bill.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Stuart had returned to attend Parliament, but would then be going back to the global summit in Dubai.

Asked about the carbon emissions from the flights, the spokesman said: “This Government is not anti-flying. We don’t lecture the public to that regard.

"The most important thing is the outcomes of COP, which Minister Stuart is obviously leading for the UK on.

“Ministers have a number of roles, the negotiations continue and he will return to Cop.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the minister’s departure “obliterated” the UK Government’s “last shred of moral authority” in tackling the climate emergency.

Lucas continued: “Our cowardly climate minister has walked away from COP28 negotiations at the most critical moment, because the PM wants him to vote for his immoral Rwanda Deal in order to save his own skin.”

Lucas is chair of The Climate All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), a group of cross-party MPs working to tackle climate change.

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The vote on the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill is due to take place on Tuesday evening, after a debate in the House of Commons.

It comes as the draft proposal of the COP28 deal published on Monday does not commit to a full phasing out of fossil fuels. Instead, the text suggests countries commit to “reducing both consumption and production of fossil fuels […] so as to achieve net zero by, before, or around 2050.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater commented: “Simply ‘reducing’ our fossil fuel consumption is not enough.

The National: Party co-leader Lorna Slater speaking at the Scottish Green Party conference at the Stirling Court Hotel in the grounds of the University of Stirling. Picture date: Saturday March 12, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SCOTLAND Greens . Photo credit should

“We need to phase out fossil fuels altogether, future generations depend on the actions we take today.”

The Scottish Green’s climate spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, condemned the decision, saying that “young people and future generations will not forget if our leaders back down and refuse to phase out fossil fuels.”

Other proposed measures include tripling the global capacity of renewable energy by 2030, doubling the rate of energy savings through efficiency measures, phasing out reliance on coal, and limiting licenses for new power plants.

Negotiations on the deal are expected to continue into Tuesday, which is the scheduled final day of the summit.

On Monday evening, summit president Sultan al-Jaber – CEO of the UAE's state-owned oil company – urged governments to be flexible and make a deal.

Yet many countries, including the US, the EU, and vulnerable island nations, have said the deal does not go far enough and expressed skepticism that the final agreement would be reached quickly.