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by Andrew Learmonth
31 March 2021
Fears COP26 summit in Glasgow could be delayed again

Boris Johnson and Sir David Attenborough COP26 launch PA

Fears COP26 summit in Glasgow could be delayed again

The COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow may have to be postponed for a second time.

On Wednesday night, Sky News quoted UK government sources warning of a need to either delay the conference or radically change the format, and reduce the number of delegates.  

The decision to delay last year’s event was taken in May, and it’s likely any change to this year will need to be announced around the same time.

One government source told the broadcaster: "There are too many uncertainties. It will depend on what public health rules are brought in between now and then, and what happens with vaccinations of delegates."

The last two COP summits have had more than 20,000 attendees, including heads of state.

Alok Sharma, the COP26 president, has told MPs the summit needs to be a physical event where participants sit around the table.

UK Government ministers are still unsure what social distancing or travel rules will need to be in place in the UK and in Scotland in September.

One diplomat told Sky that delaying the summit was preferable to hosting a bad event.

"There are dangers from trying to slim it down too much," they said.

"Even government delegations need lots of people. It's not clear how it will work with much fewer people."

Labour MP Darren Jones, who chairs the House of Commons' business select committee, said he feared any scaling back could lead to smaller countries being marginalised.

He told Sky News: "One important aspect of all COPs is that every country has the same level of access around the table - whether you are the president of the United States or the president of Madagascar - thrashing out the global agreement," he said.

"Some of the smaller countries, some of the more vulnerable countries, rely on NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to amplify their voice.

"So if we end up with just national delegations and not other interested stakeholders there is a risk to securing the right kind of agreement."

Jones added: "The primary and, to be honest, the only target for COP26 is to agree on a national and international approach to decarbonisation," he added.

Downing Street said Johnson was determined to hold the summit in person.

The Scottish Government declined to comment.

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