Nicola Sturgeon has said she “fully intends” to take part in the UN climate summit in Glasgow despite Boris Johnson again hinting at blocking her attendance.
The First Minister also urged the Prime Minister to allow Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham to participate in UK Cabinet meetings in the run-up to the COP26 climate change summit in November.
She made the plea after Claire O’Neill, who was sacked as president of the event just days ago, claimed an “extraordinary state of stand-off” had developed between the UK team and the Scottish Government.
In a letter to the PM, O’Neill claimed Johnson had “declined in salty terms” her plea for him to “consider resetting” his relationship with Sturgeon.
She suggested Johnson’s “personal animosity” towards the SNP leader was endangering the summit’s success and claimed the PM was considering relocating the event to an “English location” because of “ballooning costs”.
The former Tory clean growth minister also declared the PM “doesn’t really understand” climate change and stated UK policy on the issue was “miles off track”.
In a letter to Johnson, O’Neill also suggested his personal animosity towards Nicola Sturgeon was endangering the summit’s success and claimed the PM was considering relocating the event to an “English location” because of “ballooning costs”.
Earlier, Downing Street dismissed those claims, with a spokesman saying: “The PM is grateful to Claire for her work preparing for what will be a very successful, ambitious climate change summit in Glasgow in November.”
Officially launching COP26 on Tuesday, the Prime Minister refused to answer questions about who would replace O’Neill, although Downing Street has indicated it will be a “ministerial role”.
Joined by Sir David Attenborough for the launch event in London’s Science Museum, Johnson outlined a range of new climate measures, including potentially bringing forward a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles to 2035.
He said: “We know as a country, as a society, as a planet, as a species, we must now act. We must reverse the appalling loss of habitats and species.
“It’s only by repairing the damage to the natural world and restoring the balance between humanity and nature, that is now so grotesquely out of kilter, we can address the problem of climate change.”
Answering a question from a journalist, Johnson raised again the possibility of not inviting the First Minister to the event.
It comes after he told Conservative members at an event at party conference last September that he did not want to see Sturgeon “anywhere near” the Glasgow summit.
The FM said her government wants COP26 to be successful, tweeting: “It’s not about Boris Johnson or me – it is about tackling the climate crisis.
“My commitment is that political differences will not stop me and my government working to make it a success.”
She added: “To be clear – I’ve attended three past COPs – Paris, Bonn, Katowice – at the invitation of the UN.
“I fully intend to be in Glasgow, my home city – and to play my part in making it a success for Scotland, the UK and the world.”
As part of the UK’s moves to meet its legal goal to reach net zero by 2050, ministers will consult on bringing forward a planned ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 to 2035 – and earlier if feasible.
The ban, which the Committee on Climate Change has called for by as early as 2030, will also include hybrid vehicles for the first time.
The event will also kick off a year of climate action across the UK, the Government said.
Last year, the Scottish Government set new targets of its own to become net-zero by 2045, and to reduce emissions by 75% over the next decade.
The UN climate talks in Glasgow in November are the most important since the Paris Agreement to curb global warming was secured in 2015.
‘I had asked if you would consider resetting your relationship with the First Minister – putting aside the devolution battle for the sake of this vastly more important agenda. I understand you declined in salty terms.’Clare O’Neill to Boris Johnson
O’Neill, who stood down as a Conservative MP at the general election, was sacked as COP26 president by the PM’s special adviser, Dominic Cummings.
In her letter to the Prime Minister, published in the media on Tuesday, she told Johnson: “I am told by COP unit sources that budgets (which I do not see) are ballooning, the team and the Scottish Government are in an extraordinary state of stand-off and that you are considering re-locating the event to an English location.
“I had asked if you would consider resetting your relationship with the First Minister – putting aside the devolution battle for the sake of this vastly more important agenda.
“I understand you declined in salty terms.”
O’Neill added: “You promised to ‘lead from the front’ and asked me what was needed: ‘Money, people, just tell us!’ Sadly these promises are not close to being met.”
“This isn’t a pretty place to be and we owe the world a lot better.”
She said the PM had not convened the Cabinet sub-committee on climate change that he had promised, adding that the government was “miles off track” in setting a positive agenda for the November summit, and that promises of action “are not close to being met”.
A statement by the Scottish Government said it expects “all costs with associated with COP26” to be borne by the UK Government, including funding for police as well as fire and ambulance services,
It added: “A new president should be appointed immediately to make real progress in building the relationships that will be needed within the UK, and around the world, to deliver a successful outcome from the conference.”