Move to end COP26 row as Scottish Government talks of 'shared endeavour'

Scotland's environment minister today moved to ease tensions with the UK government over the planning of a major international climate summit due to be held in Glasgow later this year.

Boris Johnson yesterday officially launched the COP26 summit with Sir David Attenborough.

Roseanna Cunningham told MSPs that the Scottish Government had "continually demonstrated its commitment" to work in "partnership and collaboration" with the UK government over COP26, and that a "wrangle" between the two administrations would stall progress.

Her remarks came a day after a furious row between the two governments was ignited when the sacked former president of the summit, Claire O'Neill, claimed that Boris Johnson had vetoed a role for Nicola Sturgeon in the event.

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The former government minister spoke out as the UK government made the official launch of the summit yesterday, and also said the Scottish Government had behaved "disgracefully" over a dispute involving the booking of Glasgow's Science Centre, close to the main venue where the 26th climate change conference is due to be held.

In response, Ms Sturgeon wrote to the Prime Minister requesting that Ms Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Climate Change, who chairs the Scottish Government delivery group for COP26, should attend UK Cabinet and sub-committee meetings on COP26. This, she said, would ensure "any issues can be aired early and properly dealt with".

Today the row was raised in Holyrood with Ms Cunningham when SNP MSP Bill Kidd asked if the "reported hostility to the role of the Scottish Government in hosting this global event is counter-productive when tackling climate change requires collaboration of all communities?"

Ms Cunningham said: "The world is facing a climate emergency and we must move to a net zero future in a way which is fair and just. COP26 can set us on this course but it has to be a shared endeavour, and we are determined to make sure political differences will not play any part of it. We have continually demonstrated our commitment to work in partnership and collaboration with the UK government, Glasgow City Council and others."

Scottish Labour's environment spokesperson, Claudia Beamish, suggested that Boris Johnson "would do well to take a lesson from the effective way the Scottish Government and our Parliament developed the Climate Change Scotland Act, cross party and beyond". She added: "If we can't co-operate across the UK as hosts, what hope is there for the global south?"

Ms Cunningham said COP26 had the potential to be a "very significant moment" in global efforts to tackle the climate crisis. She added: "It's really important this is not going to end up being about political differences, because on climate change there's a huge degree of cross party collaboration, not just here - in fairness the UK government is also one of those countries in the world prepared to commit to a net zero target date, many countries don't.

"We should celebrate progress, not get ourselves into a wrangle which will do the opposite."

Ms Cunningham also said it was important the summit included representatives from the global south who are "among those least responsible for the global climate emergency but being affected first and most severely by it", and she would be encouraging the UK government to "ensure the process of securing visas is as easy as possible and delegates from around the world are able to attend."