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UK replaces official leading UN climate talks

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London (AFP)

Britain on Friday announced it was replacing the official leading plans for a vital UN climate summit in Scotland later this year.

Claire O'Neill, who will be replaced by a minister, said she was "very sad" to leave her role as president of November's COP 26 meeting in the city of Glasgow.

In a tweet from the official COP26President account, she said the role had been "rescinded" because the government "can't cope" with having an independent unit running the summit.

"A shame we haven't had one climate cabinet meeting since we formed. Wishing the COP team every blessing in the climate recovery emergency," she said.

In a statement, the government confirmed she no longer held the role.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson "is grateful to Claire for her work preparing for what will be a very successful and ambitious climate change summit", it said.

"Preparations will continue at pace for the summit, and a replacement will be confirmed shortly. Going forward, this will be a ministerial role."

The announcement was made just hours before Britain leaves the European Union.

O'Neill, who served as energy minister under Johnson's predecessor Theresa May, told AFP at the COP 25 talks in Madrid last month that climate change would be Britain's "number one global priority" in 2020.

Reacting to O'Neill's departure, Mohamed Adow, director of climate and energy think tank Power Shift Africa, said it would have been difficult for the COP 26 president to not hold a role in cabinet.

"For a successful outcome you want the person presiding over the negotiations to be someone with genuine political power," Adow said.

"COP26 needs to be a success, for the sake of the planet, not to mention Boris Johnson's reputation on the global stage. It was a tough job before, it will be even tougher now and the clock is ticking."

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