The UK government has announced the Scottish city of Glasgow would be the stage for next year’s UN climate talks, in a bid to unify the country around climate action.
The UK is the overwhelming favourite to host the meeting, known as Cop26, after striking a deal with its main rival Italy. Under a joint proposal, the UK would hold the main summit and Italy would host a preparatory meeting known as the pre-Cop, as well as a youth event.
Last month, the UK’s former clean growth minister Claire Perry was appointed provisional president of next year’s talks, in an early move indicating the country’s confidence it will run the conference.
Turkey has also expressed an interest in presiding over the conference, but there are no signs of Ankara being a serious rival to the UK bid. A final decision is expected before the end of this year’s climate talks in Chile in December.
The UK government anticipates a total of 30,000 delegates, including political, business and civil society representatives and 200 world leaders to attend the talks – making it the largest summit the country has ever hosted.
The two-week conference is to be held at the Scottish Event Campus.
In a statement, the government said hosting the meeting in Glasgow – which is more than 620 kilometres north from the capital London – would “boost business and drive investment in the region”.
Events would take place across the country in the run-up to the summit, with the aim to make it a “four nations” conference. The conference will also include a programme for young people.
Perry said that as one of the UK’s most sustainable cities, “Glasgow is the right choice to showcase the UK’s commitment to the environment”.
Having cut emissions by more than 40% since 1990 and committed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, Perry described the UK as “a world leader in emissions reduction”.
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Scotland boasts a more ambitious climate target than the rest of the UK. It has committed to legislate to achieve net zero emissions by 2045 – five years before the UK deadline to reach carbon neutrality.
Relations between Scotland and England have been strained as a result of the UK-wide vote to leave the EU. A majority of Scots wanted to remain and following the Brexit decision, polls show increased support for Scottish independence from Westminster.
Paul Wheelhouse, energy minister in the Scottish Government and a member of the Scottish National Party, tweeted that it was a “fabulous opportunity” to showcase Scottish leadership.
Alluding to the political differences, he added that climate change was “one of the strongest areas of progress driven by the EU and indeed is an example of why there should be more European collaboration (in which Scotland seeks to continue its progressive role) rather than the isolationism we face under the UK & Brexit”.
Glasgow was one of the heartlands of the industrial revolution and while its shipbuilding heyday has passed, it retains one of the country’s larger manufacturing hubs.
Next year’s climate meeting is considered to be one of the most important since the 2015 Paris summit and the first major test for the international community to ramp up ambition. The presidency will have a key role to play in driving countries to increase their climate targets.
Countries are due to submit updated climate plans to bridge the gap between national pledges and the overall goal of the Paris Agreement to hold global warming “well below” 2C. Existing commitments put the world on course for more than 3C.
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