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Britain’s Sunak tries to reclaim climate narrative with $2 bln pledge

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DUBAI, Dec 1 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will pledge 1.6 billion pounds ($2 billion) in funding at the U.N. climate summit on Friday, an attempt to bolster his green credentials after watering down Britain’s measures to reach net zero targets.

Sunak, in Dubai for COP28 leaders’ day, will try to restore Britain’s reputation as a leader in tackling climate change by committing to spend the mostly new money on projects in Africa and Asia to tackle deforestation and energy innovation.

But he will also underline Britain’s “pragmatic” approach to climate change, a description he has stuck with since he was criticised by environmental campaigners for delaying a ban on sales of new petrol cars, easing the transition to heat pumps and granting new North Sea drilling licences.

Running way behind the opposition Labour Party in the polls before a national election expected next year, Sunak’s team believes voters will only support measures to tackle climate change when, or if, they are affordable.

“The world made ambitious pledges at previous COP summits to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. But the time for pledges is now over – this is the era for action,” Sunak said in a statement.

“The transition to net zero should make us all safer and better off. It must benefit, not burden ordinary families. The UK has led the way in taking pragmatic, long-term decisions at home.”

The funding, which will be announced during the two-week summit, includes up to 500 million pounds to tackle the causes of deforestation, 316 million for energy innovation projects around the world and up to 60 million for loss and damage.

King Charles, a long-time environmental campaigner, will give the opening address to the summit, calling on world leaders to acknowledge the repeated warning signs of the impact of climate change and take “genuine transformational action”.

($1 = 0.7911 pounds)

For daily comprehensive coverage on COP28 in your inbox, sign up for the Reuters Sustainable Switch newsletter here. (Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Miral Fahmy)

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