Douglas Ross 'surprised' organisers of COP26 can’t provide estimated cost for climate summit
Douglas Ross has said it is "surprising" that an estimate of the cost of COP26 couldn't be given to MPs just over four months before the event in Glasgow is scheduled to take place.
The Scottish Conservatives leader asked Ros Eales, the chief operating officer, for a ballpark figure of what is being worked towards in terms of overall costs for the conference, but was told it couldn't be provided.
Ross, an MP for Moray, questioned Eales at a cross-committee COP26 scrutiny session led by the Scottish Affairs and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committees this morning.
When he was not given a rough cost for the key climate change summit, which is due to take place from 31 October to 12 November, he said it was "very difficult" for the committees to scrutinise how COP26 was being handled.
He asked: "What is the current estimate of the cost of COP26?"
Eales replied: "Budgets are yet to be finalised. So we're still kind of working through those costs at the moment.
"What I can say is value for money remains at the top of our arc of things to watch for and we are using scrutiny and peer reviews to make sure that we are looking very carefully at costs, and making sure that it's offering best value for money."
Ross then asked: "What ballpark are we looking at?"
Eales said: "I couldn't give you a ballpark at the at the moment because these are still estimated costs."
Ross replied: "What are the estimated costs then? I mean, is there just nothing at all you can give the committee?"
Eales said there was nothing that she could give the committee at this stage, citing the uncertainty caused by COVID and potential additional costs which need to be worked through.
Ross asked if it was known how much previous conferences cost other countries and whether it would be similar or more because of coronavirus mitigation.
When he was not given a definitive answer, he said: "I'm not trying to be difficult but it does seem surprising that just a few months out from this conference, we're not able to give a parliamentary committee even a rough estimate of what you're seeking to work towards in terms of overall costs."
Eales said because the costs were still estimated, organisers wouldn't want to provide an "unrealistic figure", adding: "At this stage, what we want to do is make sure we're working very carefully, working through all the processes, structures, governance, peer reviews, scrutinies that we have set up to ensure that we're offering best value for money."
Ross said: "I do understand they are estimated costs but you won't even share those estimated costs with the committee and it's therefore very difficult for us and the other committees that joined us today to scrutinise how the COP has been handled and the planning if we aren't even told what the estimated costs are."
SNP MP Pete Wishart, who was chairing the session, suggested the committee chairs would write to the COP26 president to see the estimates.
The UK Government is still working towards holding an in-person COP26 in Glasgow in November. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, UK International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for COP26, said any final decisions would sit within the control of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).