UK prime minister Boris Johnson has named Kwasi Kwarteng as business secretary while Alok Sharma steps down to lead the United Nations COP26 climate change summit.
The mini reshuffle means that Kwarteng, who has been Conservative MP for Spelthorne since 2010, will be first black secretary of state. He is currently the only black politician in the Cabinet.
It comes as Sharma offered to resign from his role as business secretary at the turn of the new year. Sharma, who is president of this year’s climate summit, told Boris Johnson that he would rather give up his position as business secretary than leave his role in climate change envoy.
He will now “solely focus on driving forward coordinated global action to tackle climate change,” a statement from the PM’s office said.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan will fill Kwarteng’s former role as minister for business, energy and clean growth.
The COP26 conference, which is being held in Glasgow between 1 and 12 November, will be the largest summit the UK has ever hosted — described as the most significant climate event since the global Paris Agreement was secured in 2015.
It will have dozens of world leaders in attendance and bring together representatives from nearly 200 countries, including experts and campaigners.
The event was originally scheduled for November 2020 but was delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The statement from the PM’s office said: “A successful summit in November will be critical if we want to meet the objectives set out by the Paris Agreement and reduce global emissions. The UK has set a high bar, with our recent commitment to reduce emissions by at least 68% by 2030, but we also need other countries to do their bit.”
Last month Britain's former climate secretary Amber Rudd said the presidency of the climate conference was so critical that it had to become a full-time role.
"I do know that this requires 100% commitment from somebody who does nothing else,” she said. “My own view is that whoever is the president of the COP — and Alok absolutely could do a great job at this - should be doing nothing else. This is not a side hustle, it's the most important event taking place next year. We can't afford to make this a part-time job.”
Watch: COP26: Countries must commit to net zero as soon as possible