(January 12, 2023) Indian-origin former UK minister, Alok Sharma has been knighted for his contribution towards combating climate change by King Charles III in his first New Year Honours list. Sharma has been honoured for his ‘incredible public service’ in the United Kingdom and abroad. As the president of the COP26 summit, he took significant steps to tackle the global problem which holds great urgency, most importantly driving a historic agreement – the Glasgow Climate Pact between 200 nations.
In his New Year Honours list, King Charles III recognised the exceptional contribution of people who helped strengthen UK’s impact around the world.
As the COP26 chief Sharma handled the challenging role with élan, devoting countless hours to virtual meetings and herculean globetrotting schedules. For the pivotal role, Sharma had stepped down from the cabinet post of secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy in former UK PM Boris Johnson’s cabinet.
Humbled to receive a Knighthood in #NewYearHonours
But to keep 1.5C alive, all countries must redouble efforts to meet their climate commitments pic.twitter.com/6tMytOog6H
— Alok Sharma (@AlokSharma_RDG) December 31, 2022
Sharma garnered praise for his balanced leadership and developed a reputation as being a calm and effective leader during his one-year tenure. His affable demeanour has been well recognised since his early days in Britain’s politics.
People sometimes describe me as ‘No Drama Sharma’.
This statement of Alok Sharma became very popular with the media and the people at large.
After nearly three years as president-designate and a year of full-time presidentship, Sharma takes climate change and its solution seriously, often calling himself a ‘green growth climate warrior’ much to the delight of his family. Talking to Financial Times, the 55-year-old had remarked at the beginning of his term last year, its “the only time my children have been vaguely excited about my job.”
Though Sharma’s tenure got concluded, managing climate change is a governing factor in his future career moves. “This is something I cannot let go off. I am fully invested,” he had told Financial Times.
Sharma in UK’s politics
A chartered accountant by qualification, who is also armed with a BSc degree in Applied Physics with Electronics, Sharma started his political career in 2006. He was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Reading West in 2010. Having grown up in Reading, a town west of London, the politician calls himself ‘a Reading man.’ He managed support in his home town to get re-elected for the constituency in the 2015 general elections.
A huge thank you to His Majesty the King for his inspiring leadership on #ClimateAction and support throughout the UK’s #COP26 Presidency which has stood on the foundations he has been building for decades https://t.co/TG0B810Efc
— Alok Sharma (@AlokSharma_RDG) November 4, 2022
With a background in STEM, Sharma’s first role in UK’s political landscape was to serve as a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee between 2010 – 2011. Later, serving as the parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to Mark Hoban, the then financial secretary to the treasury for a year, he honed his skills as a politician.
Sharma was selected for a tenure as Conservative Party vice-chairman from 2012-2015. The Indian descent politician also served as the co-chairman of Conservative Friends of India in 2014.
Causes close to heart
His campaign for longer prison sentences for those convicted of death due to reckless driving and to reduce the number of first-class carriages on trains running between Reading and London to increase standard class capacity, brought him closer to the masses.
Following the death of two cyclists, Sharma had initiated a parliamentary debate on reckless driving and backed it with a petition, which had managed to gain more than 55,000 signatures. He has been committed to needs of kids in the sphere of education from the beginning of his political career.
The soft-hearted politician was tearful in parliament in 2016, when as housing minister, he described the heart-wrenching experience of meeting the survivors of a devastating fire in London that had killed more than 70 people.
An assignment that brought the politician close to his native country was his appointment as the prime minister David Cameroon’s infrastructure envoy to India. During his tenure he had remarked, “The India story is very compelling to British investors who are all chasing yield.”
Thereafter, Sharma held some vital roles in the government, serving as minister of state for housing from 2017 to 2018 and as parliamentary under-secretary of state for employment from 2018 to 2019.
In 2019, former UK PM Boris Johnson appointed him as the Secretary of State for International Development. During the 2020 cabinet reshuffle, he was promoted to the post of secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, an office in which he served until 2021 before he was appointed to lead COP26. During his COP tenure, Sharma retained his status as the member of the cabinet.
Inspiration of working for climate from family
The awakening towards managing climate change for a better future had been instilled in him at home, long before he was chosen as president-designate of COP. He considers his wife, two daughters and former US vice president Al Gore as the chief contributors to shaping his thought on global warming and climate policy.
Talking about mitigating effects of climate change he said in a video interview smilingly:
When I was selected as president-designate for COP26, I got a text from my daughter with the BBC link of the announcement and accompanying that was the three-word message, ‘get it done’. I feel the pressure to make sure to collectively get it done.
Stints in Germany and Sweden during his early career in banking and finance also introduced him to adopt lesser harmful ways to live on this planet. At that time, UK was not as mindful as the other two countries, when it came to simple things like segregating garbage, making his Swedish wife cringe. Eventually, she gave him lessons on how to live better. On a flight one day, he watched Al Gore’s famous documentary, ‘An inconvenient Truth’ from start to finish. The film changed the way he saw climate change.
The indelible marks
As the saying goes, behind every successful man is a woman. In Sharma’s case, it was his wife who urged him to consider a career in politics, although he had by then settled into senior roles in banking and finance. His career thrived and Sharma was associated with organisations like Coopers & Lybrand Deloitte, and the Japanese firms, Nikko Securities and Enskilda Securities.
Both his daughters also cared passionately about the healthy environment and that too influenced the doting father’s outlook on things. Upon insistence of one of his vegan daughters, Sharma even gave up meat to cut his own emissions. “Fatherhood in itself had an impact on how I wanted the planet to be for the future generation,” he remarked.
The India connection
Like the newly elected UK PM Rishi Sunak, Sharma took his oath in the House of Commons on the Bhagavad Gita in 2019. Born in the Taj Mahal city Agra, he had moved with his parents to Reading as a five-year-old. He grew up and studied in UK with a Hindu upbringing.