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Boris Johnson to use UN visit to press for action on taxes and climate change

·5-min read

Boris Johnson will urge Amazon boss Jeff Bezos to address the firm’s tax record and help fix the climate crisis during diplomatic efforts to encourage the world’s richest to redouble their work to save the environment.

The Prime Minister will also hold talks with Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change sceptic, during the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday.

New Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was travelling to the States with Mr Johnson, amid a deepening diplomatic row with France over the new military pact between the UK, US and Australia.

Downing Street said it fears allies are “stagnating” on their promise to commit 100 billion dollars (£73 billion) a year in support to developing nations to cut their carbon emissions.

Alongside UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, Mr Johnson will convene a meeting of world leaders to call on them to deliver on their promise to the world’s poorest.

Boris Johnson visit to US
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss boards RAF Voyager at Stansted (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Later in the day, the Prime Minister will sit down with Mr Bezos, one of the world’s richest men, amid widespread concerns over the comparative lack of tax digital giants pay.

Amazon sales in the UK soared by 51% to almost £20 billion last year, buoyed by coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Despite the boom, estimates have put Amazon as having a tax to turnover ratio of just 0.37%.

Asked if Mr Johnson will probe Amazon’s record on tax with Mr Bezos, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We will very much be looking to raise that.

“We have been a lead advocate for an international solution to the tax challenges posed by digitalisation of the economy.

“We will very much be looking to raise that.”

He added: “We fully recognise as one of the largest companies in the world Amazon has a role in addressing the issues of climate change and biodiversity, that’s very much the issues that the Prime Minister intends to raise with Mr Bezos.”

Cop26 President Alok Sharma was also heading to New York with Mr Johnson on Sunday after revealing that Chinese President Xi Jinping still has not committed to attending the climate conference in Glasgow in November.

The climate crisis will also be on the schedule during talks between the Prime Minister and Mr Bolsonaro, the right-wing populist who is vying for re-election in Brazil.

Alok Sharma
Cop26 President Alok Sharma (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Mr Bolsonaro has been the subject of international criticism for his moves to roll back legal protection for the Amazon rainforest, accelerating deforestation.

Complicating his attendance at the UN, Mr Bolsonaro may be breaching the assembly’s rule for all attendees to have been vaccinated against coronavirus.

The president has told supporters he has refused vaccination and has spread bizarre disinformation about jabs, including suggesting they could turn people into crocodiles.

Ahead of the separate round table talks with world leaders, No 10 pointed to OECD figures last week showing that only 79.6 billion dollars in climate finance was mobilised last year.

Downing Street said the UK has already committed £11.6 billion in international climate finance over the next five years.

Mr Johnson will announce that £550 million of this will be allocated to developing nations to help them meet net-zero by adopting policies and technologies to end the use of coal.

Ahead of the meeting, the Prime Minister said: “In coming together to agree the 100 billion dollar pledge, the world’s richest countries made an historic commitment to the world’s poorest, we now owe it to them to deliver on that.

Boris Johnson visit to US
Boris Johnson at Stansted Airport (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Richer nations have reaped the benefits of untrammelled pollution for generations, often at the expense of developing countries.

“As those countries now try to grow their economies in a clean, green and sustainable way we have a duty to support them in doing so, with our technology, with our expertise and with the money we have promised.”

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister and Ms Truss will meet US President Joe Biden at the White House.

Mr Johnson will push for a restoration of UK-US travel, with Mr Biden’s administration having maintained a ban due to soaring rates of the Delta variant of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We established this travel working group at the G7 and you can expect them to discuss the work done by that group and the shared need to open up UK-US travel as soon as possible.”

Boris Johnson visit to US
US President Joe Biden with Prime Minister Boris Johnson during their meeting at the G7 summit in Cornwall (Toby Melville/PA)

Fallout from the new Aukus military pact between the UK, US and Australia, will also be under discussion.

Not only has it angered China, but France has recalled ambassadors to the States and Australia because the deal to provide nuclear-submarines to Canberra meant the cancellation of a £30 billion deal for the French.

Many had hoped the Democrat’s arrival would restore the “special relationship” between the UK and US to full health, but the crisis in Afghanistan has put it under strain.

Mr Biden rejected calls from the Prime Minister and other allies to delay his withdrawal of troops to buy more time to evacuate former Afghan staff, their families and other vulnerable citizens.

With refusal meaning possibly thousands were left behind, Mr Johnson is expected to discuss further efforts to stem a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

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