Cop26 corporate sponsors condemn climate summit as ‘mismanaged’

The sponsors have raised formal complaints blaming “very inexperienced” civil servants for organisational failures in the run-up to the landmark talks
Cop26 corporate sponsors condemn climate summit as ‘mismanaged’

The Armadillo, Exhibition Halls, and SSE Hydro, on the Scottish Event Campus alongside the River Clyde in Glasgow, which will host the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (Cop26) from October 31. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA 

Companies that stumped up millions of pounds to sponsor the Cop26 climate summit have condemned it as “mismanaged” and “very last minute” in a volley of complaints as the event in Glasgow draws near.

The sponsors, which include some of Britain’s biggest companies, have raised formal complaints blaming “very inexperienced” civil servants for delayed decisions, poor communication, and a breakdown in relations between the organisers and firms in the run-up to the landmark talks.

The Guardian understands that a letter to the organisers, written by broadcaster Sky and co-signed by senior leaders from other Cop26 sponsors, has raised concerns with them over these and other problems, and followed another co-signed letter in July.

The UK is running its Cop26 presidency from within the Cabinet Office, under the leadership of the former business secretary Alok Sharma, who is the Cop26 president, and the businessman Nigel Topping who was appointed the government’s high-level climate action champion last year. 

Sponsorship is expected to help defray a policing bill estimated to reach up to £250m.

Alongside Sky, the summit has 10 other major sponsors, including energy giants Hitachi, National Grid, Scottish Power, and SSE; US tech titan Microsoft, and FTSE companies GSK, NatWest, Reckitt, Sainsbury’s and Unilever. 

Unilever has denied signing the letter penned by Sky. 

Other lower-tier “partners” include the car maker, Jaguar Land Rover, and the furniture retailer, Ikea.

One source, employed by a Cop26 sponsor, said that “the biggest frustration” was the lack of information about how the event will run, and the role for its key backers, because important questions have gone unanswered and planning decisions have been delayed.

“They had an extra year to prepare for Cop due to Covid, but it doesn’t feel like this time was used to make better progress. Everything feels very last minute,” the source said.

The upcoming climate talks have already been thrown into turmoil by suggestions that the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, will skip the event, threatening the chances of a global pact with the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter.

In multiple emails and official letters the companies have complained to organisers about unmet expectations, and deepening concerns over delays to the green zone plans.  

Other sources have described the “shifting goal posts” and “inertia” plaguing the Cop26 planning as “deeply frustrating”.

One source blamed the “very young, very inexperienced” civil servants tasked with planning the event for taking a “top-down public sector approach” that has raised hackles among sponsors.

“It’s clear that many of them have very little experience managing relationships in the private sector, or even experience attending a Cop event,” the source said.

Up to 150,000 protesters are expected to take to Glasgow’s streets in early November, which will require one of the largest policing operations ever undertaken in Britain.

  • The Guardian

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