Some of the world’s biggest companies which have ploughed vast sums of sponsorship money into the upcoming Cop26 climate summit have reportedly complained of a chaotic lead-up to the Glasgow event overseen by “inexperienced” officials and plagued by delays.
“Frustrations” have been raised about apparent “inertia” by organisers in the weeks and months preceding the major environmental summit, at which countries are expected to sign up to ambitious new climate targets.
Among the reported concerns was that “very inexperienced” civil servants were being tasked with organising the conference, leading to delays, poor communication and a breakdown in relations between officials and sponsors.
According to The Guardian, broadcaster Sky – which is a “principal partner” for the climate summit – sent a letter co-signed by other sponsors to Cop26 organisers raising these concerns. An earlier note detailing their complaints was also sent over the summer.
Other sponsors include Unilever, Microsoft, Natwest, Sainsbury’s and GSK. It was unclear which of these had put their names to the letters of complaint.
One unnamed source told The Guardian it was “clear” those in charge had “very little experience managing relationships in the private sector, or even experience attending a Cop event”.
Concerns were also aired about delays to the Green Zone, a series of events open to the public for 12 days at the start of November, and that in preparing for the summit “everything feels very last minute”.
Other sources complained to the paper of “inertia”, “shifting goal posts” and a “top-down public sector approach”.
Sponsors are also said to have grown frustrated at ministers having not always been available to attend promotional events in the lead-up to the summit, which was reported to have formed part of the sponsorship deals.
The build-up to next month’s Cop26 had already been suffering setbacks, with several world leaders expressing doubts over whether they would attend.
China’s president Xi Jinping is said to be unlikely to travel to Scotland and the Russian ambassador to the UK said on Sunday a decision has not been taken yet as to whether President Putin will be there.
A public health expert has also raised fears that Cop26 will lead to a new wave of coronavirus infections in Scotland.
Up to 30,000 people are expected to travel to Glasgow for the summit in November and activists are expected to stay in the homes of people who live in and around the city.
There was a rise in Covid-19 cases in Cornwall in June, though the government denied the G7 meeting there was to blame.
Professor Linda Bauld, chair of public health at Edinburgh University, said mass events like the climate conference are still “risky” despite declining rates of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, an “alternative Cop26” is planned for Glasgow at the same time as the main event, which will call for “radical and rapid change”, and will welcome attendees including the former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
The Independent contacted the Cabinet Office and Cop26 for comment.