Cop26 sponsors complain of ‘mismanaged’ climate summit run by ‘inexperienced’ staff

Sources reportedly complain of ‘inertia’, ‘shifting goal posts’ and ‘top-down public sector approach’

Tom Batchelor
Monday 18 October 2021 09:01
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Related video: Queen’s Cop26 anger at ‘irritating’ world leaders who ‘talk, but don’t do’

Some of the world’s biggest companies which have ploughed vast sums of sponsorship money into the upcoming Cop26 climate summit have reportedly raised concerns about the management of the Glasgow event, which one source said was being overseen by “inexperienced” officials and plagued by delays.

In a letter sent to the Cop26 unit, questions were raised about the progress being made by organisers in the weeks and months preceding the major environmental summit, at which countries are expected to sign up to ambitious new climate targets.

The Independent understands the letter focussed on issues with hotels and the need for more information on the green zone, a series of events open to the public for 12 days at the start of November.

The sponsors, who include Unilever, Microsoft, Natwest, Sainsbury’s, GSK and Sky, first sent a co-signed letter to Cop26 organisers in May raising these concerns.

One unnamed source told The Guardian it was “clear” those in charge had “very little experience managing relationships in the private sector, or even experience attending a Cop event”.

A source told the paper that in preparing for the summit “everything feels very last minute” – though this language did not appear in the letter sent by sponsors.

They said that “very inexperienced” civil servants were being tasked with organising the conference, leading to delays, poor communication and a breakdown in relations between officials and sponsors.

Other sources complained to the paper of “inertia”, “shifting goal posts” and a “top-down public sector approach”.

Sponsors are also said to have grown frustrated at ministers having not always been available to attend promotional events in the lead-up to the summit, which was reported to have formed part of the sponsorship deals.

Members of the public cross the Clyde Arc road bridge by the Scottish Events Centre which will be hosting the Cop26 UN Climate Summit

The build-up to next month’s Cop26 had already been suffering setbacks, with several world leaders expressing doubts over whether they would attend.

China's president Xi Jinping is said to be unlikely to travel to Scotland and the Russian ambassador to the UK said on Sunday a decision has not been taken yet as to whether President Vladimir Putin will be there.

A public health expert has also raised fears that Cop26 will lead to a new wave of coronavirus infections in Scotland.

Up to 30,000 people are expected to travel to Glasgow for the summit in November and activists are expected to stay in the homes of people who live in and around the city.

There was a rise in Covid-19 cases in Cornwall in June, though the government denied the G7 meeting there was to blame.

Professor Linda Bauld, chair of public health at Edinburgh University, said mass events like the climate conference are still “risky” despite declining rates of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, an “alternative Cop26” is planned for Glasgow at the same time as the main event, which will call for “radical and rapid change”, and will welcome attendees including the former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

A Cop26 spokesperson said: “We are working closely with all our Cop26 Partners ahead of the vital summit in Glasgow. Working with corporate sponsors increases the value for money for taxpayers, and reduces the overall financial cost of Cop26.

“We are committed to hosting an inclusive summit in two weeks’ time, which showcases innovative work from a range of businesses and civil society groups who are committed to tackling climate change together. Ministers are continuing to focus their time on helping to secure a positive outcome in Glasgow”.

The Independent contacted the Cabinet Office for comment.

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