COP26: Just one in four know COP26 dates and purpose as Scots split on effectiveness

Three in four Scots do not know both what the climate change conference COP26 is or when it is to be held, a new poll has shown.

Scots are also split down the middle on whether the conference will make a positive difference towards climate change.

With just 51 per cent of Scots believing COP26 will make a positive difference, politicians were attacked by Greenpeace UK, who labelled the figure an “real indictment” of UK politics.

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The COP26 conference is set to take place in November in Glasgow.

The poll, undertaken by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman, interviewed 1,016 Scottish adults aged 16 and over between September 3 and 9.

The figures come just under two months before hundreds of world leaders will arrive in Glasgow to discuss environmental policy in early November.

Scots were asked what they thought the conference was and when it was due to take place, with 25 per cent correctly answering both questions.

In total, almost three quarters (73 per cent) of Scots said they knew the conference was about climate change, with 14 per cent saying they did not know and other answers split between world peace, pandemic policy, counter-terrorism policy, and an economics conference.

Fewer (28 per cent) correctly said the conference is set for early November, with 45 per cent wrongly saying it was in September or October.

The conference is the deadline for countries to finalise details of their national action plans to cut emissions following the Paris Agreement of 2016, which saw world leaders commit to keep the rise in the average global temperature to two degrees.

In August, a landmark study into the impact of human-caused climate change said the findings were a “code red for humanity” and that significantly more must be done as soon as possible to limit the rise in global temperatures.

The conference is viewed as the first major milestone for the re-elected SNP Government under Nicola Sturgeon.

It is also the first major political event after the co-operation agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens.

Optimism around whether the conference will succeed in forcing change is not shared by many Scots, with the public split down the middle as to whether the conference will make a positive difference to climate change.

Just over half (51 per cent) believe the conference will make a “somewhat” or “very” positive difference, while 41 per cent believe it will make “not much” or “not a positive difference at all” to climate change.

A further 8 per cent of Scots said they did not know.

Despite this, 78 per cent of Scots agreed COP26 should be a “very” or “somewhat” important priority for the Scottish Government, with just 17 per cent stating it is “not that important” or “not at all important”.

Reacting to the figures, Kate Blagojevic, head of climate at Greenpeace UK, said the attitudes towards COP26 proved the government must do more to focus on the climate emergency.

She said: “With the conference happening on their doorstep, it’s encouraging that nearly three quarters of Scots are aware of COP26 and its focus on the climate crises, but the fact that barely 50 per cent of the public are confident the Glasgow climate summit will make a difference is a real indictment of our political leaders.

"As hosts, the government needs to be doing more to show the public they are pulling out all the stops to make this conference the success we need it to be. A key part of this is showing both the public here and the global community they’re serious about taking climate action at home.”

Reports have claimed the UK Government is attempting to ensure the First Minister will not gain from the conference after leaked messages suggested strategists in Number 10 have been trying to prevent the summit becoming an "advert” for independence.

This poll indicates this fear may not be misplaced, with the survey stating Scots believe Nicola Sturgeon is more likely to benefit most from COP26 than Boris Johnson.

More than a quarter of Scots (27 per cent) believe the First Minister will benefit most, while 14 per cent believe Boris Johnson will benefit more.

A further 27 per cent believe neither will benefit more than the other and almost a third (32 per cent) said they did not know.

Chris Hopkins, associate director at Savanta ComRes, said the conference would likely be used to highlight the importance of environment policy to voters.

He said: “Much attention has been given to COP26 in the press and among politicos, and that does seem to have filtered through to the public, with three-quarters knowing it’s a climate change conference, although considerably fewer knew both its purpose and when it will be held.

"This filtration through to broader public consciousness has no doubt increased its importance in the mind of the public, with a large majority saying that the conference should be a priority for the Scottish Government and half saying it will have a positive impact on climate change.

"However, the environment as an issue hasn’t grown hugely in its importance to Scottish voters since last year, perhaps highlighting why so many in government, including the First Minister, are taking the opportunity to host so seriously.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “COP26 coming to Scotland is a unique opportunity to advance the society-wide transformation demanded by the climate crisis. That’s why we are determined to make sure the event reaches out far beyond the negotiations in Glasgow, into every community in the country.

“Scotland has made great progress in delivering its world-leading climate targets and is already over half way to net zero. To end our contribution to climate change within a generation, we will all need to play role. Our communities and young people will be at the heart of that action.

"Our community engagement programme will help empower everyone to take action to tackle climate change, especially those that might have not previously engaged.”

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