Scots should take a “step back” and realise the importance of COP26 even if they do not feel involved in the process as the UN climate summit descends on Glasgow for the next two weeks, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
More than 30,000 people are expected to attend the conference in Scotland’s largest city, which launches this weekend.
Ms Sturgeon briefed media alongside Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone and NHS Scotland clinical director Jason Leitch.
They were speaking against a backdrop of concerns about disruption in the city, a potential Covid spike – and the prospect leaders will fail to reach a workable agreement at the end.
Success not taken for granted
At a media briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t think success at this summit can be taken for granted at all.
“And that’s probably an understatement.
“World leaders will gather here Sunday into Monday.
“And the position at the opening of the conference is one that sees a significant gap between where we need to get to to keep 1.5 degrees alive as the limit of global warming.”
Government ‘no say’ in Glasgow location
While Ms Sturgeon said it was a “huge” honour for Glasgow to hold such a prestigious event and that she was “proud” of her city.
We are still in the grip of a global pandemic.
– Nicola Sturgeon
Asked if she was “happy” the event was taking place in Glasgow so soon after the pandemic, she said: “Obviously the circumstances are not what anyone would want.
“The summit of course was supposed to take place last year and had to be delayed.
“We are still in the grip of a global pandemic.
“The importance of the summit means it is vital it goes ahead in person and also means the right mitigations and protections are in place.
“The Scottish Government was not the decision maker in where the summit took place. But I am proud this city will host COP 26 over the next two weeks, I hope we can look back and view the outcome of it as something to be proud of as well.”
She added: “For the next fortnight, Glasgow and Scotland will be at the centre of the world’s attention.
“Hosting this conference is a huge honour for Scotland – and it is also a major responsibility.
“It is inevitable that such a major event will bring some disruption.
“That will be particularly true in the next few days as national leaders and heads of state – together with more than 20,000 delegates – come to Scotland from across the world.”
She said this coming Sunday, Monday and Tuesday would be particularly busy while major demonstrations were planned for Friday November 5 and Saturday November 6.
Ms Sturgeon accepted the event would not be taken to the country’s heart the same way something like the Commonwealth games would, but pleaded for people to see the “bigger picture”.
She said: “For the city, COP, over the next two weeks, will not feel like the Commonwealth games.
“Although the green zone is open to the public…the blue zone is not. There is not the same ability for people to get involved in the day-to-day stuff.
“I accept there will be a sense this is something causing disruption to Glasgow without necessarily the ability for Glasgow to take place in the event as a whole.
“I hope most people, while feeling frustrated at taking longer to get places with road closures and potentially demonstrations causing some disruption…I am not saying will feel this in their hearts but we all need to take a step back and remember — this summit really matters to the planet.
“I hope the outcome of this means Glasgow can look back and take a sense of pride at having hosted something that could be a turning point, I hope, for climate change.”
Those planning on disrupting COP26 through violent protest and disorder will be dealt with “swiftly and robustly”, Scotland’s top police officer warned.
The chief constable, alongside Ms Sturgeon, said policing the international conference was one of the largest operations to have taken place anywhere in the UK.
He said: “We will protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest at COP26, balanced against the rights of the wider community.”
He added: “But to those intent on violent disorder and damage, to those who seek to disrupt the climate conference actually taking place, I have a clear message.
“We will respond swiftly and we will respond robustly.”