Despite last-minute changes to water down the conclusions, UN diplomats have broadly welcomed the Glasgow summit's outcome. However strong warnings have come from the likes of Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders and former President of Ireland, who said: “COP26 has made some progress, but nowhere near enough to avoid climate disaster.”
Nevertheless, predictions of total conference failure or organisational calamity for the Glasgow summit have proven false. Karl Mathiesen, senior climate correspondent for Politico, said: “Universal opinion on Glasgow from COP26 delegates I spoke with was that the Scots smashed it. Great town. Great people.” That view was echoed by Laurence Tubiana, the European Climate Foundation’s CEO, who said: “Yes absolutely Scots rocked.”
Particularly newsworthy for many international commentators was the announcement by Nicola Sturgeon that Scotland has become the first government to contribute to a “loss and damage fund”, providing £2 million to assist nations facing irreversible challenges from climate change.
The First Minister said: “Scotland is a relatively small country of just five million people, and we don’t have substantial powers of borrowing. However, we can still lead by example, and there has never been a more vital time to do so.”
Her pledge won widespread praise including from Saleemul Huq, of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development. The climate science expert from Bangladesh said: “The true leader that has emerged here in COP26 is not a party to the convention. She’s our host.”
The positive role played by Scotland’s First Minister has been covered in the global media, including the Washington Post, which reported that “the leader of Scotland was busy while this city played host to a global summit on the fate of the Earth. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon posed for pictures with Greta Thunberg, joined a panel with Nancy Pelosi on climate and gender, gifted a tartan tie to US envoy John F. Kerry and fetched Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez an Irn-Bru — an orange soda that’s often described as ‘Scotland’s other national drink.’”
The coverage by one of the most respected newspapers in the world went on to highlight: “Sturgeon had no official role at the COP26 climate conference. She wasn’t part of the British delegation. Some observers went as far as to say that she was intentionally sidelined by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
"But Sturgeon is scrappy. She carved out a role for herself on the sidelines of the United Nations summit, touting Scotland’s green credentials and also, sometimes more subtly than others, reminding people that Scotland is a semi-autonomous nation – something she’d like to change.”
In contrast, the role of Boris Johnson has been widely criticised. The British Prime Minister only made only fleeting visits to the COP26 discussions, and didn’t even turn up at the end when talks got tough with the likes of India and China.
His underwhelming involvement reached a peak at the post-conference briefing where he suggested COP26 took place in Edinburgh. Boris Johnson again making it clear to Scotland why we would be better off governing ourselves fully and representing ourselves internationally.