PM puts Queen before environment talks

By Ruth Mckee

No 10 says David Cameron will not attend next year's key environment summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The announcement came after the Commons' environmental audit committee called on the prime minister to lead the way in the fight to protect the planet by attending next year's Rio +20 Earth Summit, where, they argue, key targets can be put in place to halt the rapid decline and decay of the environment.

"The Rio+20 Earth Summit is a vital chance for world leaders to take action to avert a global environmental crisis," committee chair Joan Walley said.

"The prime minister should lead by example. He could make a big difference by demonstrating his commitment to Rio +20 and letting other world leaders know that he will personally be attending."

Downing Street said Mr Cameron was unable to attend because the conference clashed with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, however.

The MPs, including parliament's sole Green party representative Caroline Lucas, are worried that the global financial crisis is distracting world leaders from environmental issues and argue that true financial stability can only stem from sustainable development.

"Lasting prosperity can only be built on a healthy planet," Ms Walley argued.

“Progress on sustainability only stands a chance if the right targets are set and performance against them is measured.

"The government should seek to agree new sustainable consumption goals at Rio +20, to move the focus onto what the UK and other developed countries need to do.

The summit in Rio de Janeiro will be held next year, marking 20 years since the pivotal "Earth summit" was held in the city.

The committee's report urged the prime minister to appoint a special envoy to liaise with governmental departments before, during and after the summit.

The MPs want the government to use the summit to set down new sustainability targets as, according to the report, "it is simply unfair to expect developing countries to continue to bear the burden of our unsustainable activities".