Don’t COP out on climate, conference hosts told

Polar bears on a melting ice floe. Photograph: imageBROKER/Shutterstock
Polar bears on a melting ice floe. Photograph: imageBROKER/Shutterstock
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Scotland and the UK should not yet be boasting about their “world-leading” action to save the planet after Glasgow was selected as the venue for next year’s prestigious United Nations climate change conference, environmentalists are warning.

On winning the bid to stage the summit, international development secretary Alok Sharma said the decision was “testimony to the UK’s leading role in the global fight against climate change”.

But campaigners have pointed out that landing the Conference of Parties (COP) is not based on a country’s environmental credentials and more to do with the depth of its pockets.

The 2013 and 2018 summits were held in Poland, a country powered by coal, and in 2012 in oil-rich Qatar.

Conversely, although Fiji presided over the 2017, meeting the event itself was held in Bonn, Germany, as the South Pacific island could not handle the logistics and expense of staging such a large-scale gathering.

Campaigners have welcomed the international event, which is seen as the most important since the Paris conference in 2015, but warn that much tougher action is needed if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided.

“Hosting the UN climate negotiations should not be thought of as a reward for leadership but rather as an opportunity to demonstrate true leadership,” said Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon.

“One only has to look at the recent hosting of COP by the right-wing, coal-loving Polish government to know that hosting these talks is not because you are the best in class.

“The talks are an enormously complex, expensive undertaking for which there are few volunteers.”

International experts have agreed that a 2C rise in global temperature over pre-industrial levels would spark catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

However, analysis suggests the world is currently on course to hit at least 3C by the end of the century.

Westminster has outlined intentions for the UK to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, while Scotland intends to get there five years earlier.

So all eyes will be on the UK as international leaders and the world’s top climate scientists gather in Glasgow next December to discuss progress on pledges to restrict global warming to 1.5C, as set out in the Paris Agreement.

Friends of the Earth Scotland is warning that both the UK and Scotland must drastically step up action to reduce greenhouse gases to have any hope of helping curb warming.

The group has joined a number of other organisations in their call for tougher targets to be included in Scotland’s forthcoming new Climate Bill, which is due to face its final vote at Holyrood on 25 September.

Ministers have set out aims to cut emissions by 70 per cent by 2030, 90 per cent by 2040 and to reach net-zero by 2045.

But the coalition Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, which includes Greenpeace, Oxfam, WWF, RSPB and Christian Aid as well as Friends of the Earth, is calling for an even more ambitious goal – 80 per cent by 2030.

Dixon says actions over the next decade will be “crucial” in the fight against climate change and the Scottish Government still has an opportunity to set an example to the rest of the world ahead of COP26 by raising the bar higher still.

“The UN’s landmark report last year was crystal clear that emissions must fall significantly between now and 2030 if we are to have any hope of staying within 1.5C of warming,” he said.

“By setting a target to cut emissions by 86 per cent by 2030, Nicola Sturgeon’s government would be able to hold their heads up high at the talks next year.”

Scottish climate change secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “It is right that this conference should come to Scotland, given our leadership in climate action.

“Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to acknowledge the global climate emergency and the Scottish Government has introduced the toughest targets in the UK to ensure our action matches the scale of our climate ambitions.”