The president of the COP26 climate change summit has insisted it will be an “all of UK” event despite suggestions Number 10 is trying to sideline the First Minister.
Alok Sharma insisted he wanted the event, which will world leaders come to Glasgow for key talks on how to limit global warming, to be something the whole of the United Kingdom could be proud of.
His comments come in the wake of reports that advisers at No 10 and the Cabinet Office have been seeking to sideline Nicola Sturgeon’s role, amidst fears she may seek to use the event as an “advert” for Scottish independence.
But Sharma told MSPs on Holyrood’s Net Zero Committee: “I very much want to see this as an all of UK COP, something that we can all collectively be very proud of.”
He added: “We will be welcoming the world to Glasgow and this is an opportunity to showcase what the United Kingdom has to offer.”
Sharma stressed the desire for there to be a “whole of UK approach” to the summit.
And he told MSPs: “I am sure shortly you will hear more from the UK Government on this issue, but this is something the Prime Minister leads on.”
Speaking about the involvement on ministers from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments at COP26, he said that “there has always been the precedence that as part of the UK delegation we also have representation from ministers in the devolved administrations”.
He added that the UK Government was currently having “detailed discussions” with the three devolved administrations “on numbers of people who will join the UK delegation”.
He stressed the summit, which was meant to take place in 2020 but was delayed by a year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, was the planet’s “last best chance of getting this right” when it comes to tackling climate change.
Sharma insisted: “This is a decisive decade.
“We need to get this right at COP.”
With that in mind he said the UK’s “overarching” ambition for the event was to keep the goal of limiting temperature rises 1.5C, as agreed at an earlier summit in Paris, “within reach”.
To help achieve that he said he wanted more countries across the globe to set targets to cutting emissions.
The UK has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2015 with Sharma saying this was something all of the leading G7 nations had pledged to do, as well as having interim 2030 targets which will help achieve that.
He said: “When we took on the COP26 presidency less than 30% of the global economy was covered by a net zero target, where now it is 70%.
“But we still need other countries, particularly some of the G20 nations which have not yet come forward with ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets to come forward.”
Sharma also said the UK would also be pressing for countries to “set out plans for adapting to the climate change that is already happening”.
He also stressed the importance of richer nations making good on the commitment to deliver 100 billion US dollars a year to help developing countries deal with climate change.
While he said “that was supposed to happen from 2020 to 2025” Sharma conceded that “we are not there yet”.
He added: “Clearly we need to do more so we are continuing to press the donor countries on this and we are going to be setting out a delivery plan ahead of COP of this.”