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Michael Gove and the rest of the UK Cabinet have skipped a key international summit on climate change a day after a landmark UN report warned that “urgent” action was needed to avoid global warming disaster.

Mr Gove’s department confirmed the environment secretary was not able to attend the meeting of EU environment ministers in Luxembourg, which is specifically about fighting climate change by cutting CO2 emissions, as well as other environmental matters such as biodiversity.

Though the meeting was attended by Mr Gove’s top counterparts from countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, he instead sent one of his junior ministers, Therese Coffey, to cover for him – with no member of the UK Cabinet present at the summit.

The environment secretary, widely disliked in Brussels for his high-profile role in the Brexit campaign, has failed to attend any of the EU council meetings since he came to office, always sending deputies instead. As well as Ms Coffey, Claire Perry, a middle-ranking minister at the business department who oversees climate change policy also attended.

But Mr Gove’s non-attendance at Tuesday’s important meeting following the IPCC report recommending “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” angered environmentalists, who said his “failure to engage” was damning and showed the limited extent of the government’s ambitions.

European ministers used the meeting to adopt a tougher position on climate change emphasising “the unprecedented urgency which is needed to step up global efforts to avoid the dangerous effects of climate change” and to work on new CO2 emissions standards for cars across the bloc.

It came after Monday’s report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that the planet would reach the crucial 1.5C warming as early as 2030 under current greenhouse gas emission levels: risking wildfires, extreme droughts, floods, and serious famine. Read more

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