COP26 'doubles carbon footprint' of previous climate summit

12 November 2021, 00:42

Delegates made their way to the event in private cars and planes.
Delegates made their way to the event in private cars and planes. Picture: Alamy
Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

COP26 is expected to have a carbon footprint double that of the last climate summit - making it the most carbon-intensive UN conference of its kind.

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A preliminary report for the UK Government states 102,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) is due to be released by the Glasgow summit.

And international flights will account for around 60 per cent of the summit’s total emissions.

Many Government leaders and wealthy private citizens - such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos - have come in for heavy criticism for using private jets to travel to the Glasgow summit.

Boris Johnson was condemned for flying to London by jet for an appointment at a private members’ club after his first visit to COP. His second appearance at the summit saw him arrive by train.

Read more: Boris Johnson took private plane back to London from COP26 climate summit

Read more: Draft COP26 pact urges more action after China 'thwarts' talks

According to aviation consultancy WingX, around 118 different business jets flew into Glasgow and Edinburgh airports for COP - with 50 landing on the first day.

Data has also shown some jets flying 30 miles between Glasgow Airport and Glasgow Prestwick AIrport just to park.

The total emissions of the Glasgow summit are more than double that of the Madrid COP25 which was held in 2019, when they stood at 51,101 tCO2e.

The COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 produced around 26,000 tCO2e of emissions while COP21 in Paris six years later, saw the figure rise to 43,000 tCO2e.

The UK Government said this year's summit is the largest ever held, and the report by consultants Arup includes emissions from both the private and public zones of the conference for the first time.

What will make COP26 a success?

Dr Doug Parr of Greenpeace UK said: "The meeting in Glasgow is not supposed to be a demonstration of sustainable lifestyles, and it shouldn't be judged in those terms.

"But the failure to reach any meaningful agreement about limiting aviation's vast carbon emissions - at a conference where 60 per cent of their emissions came from aviation, with a backing chorus of media outrage at the private jet hypocrisy of the elites - really highlights the lack of equity in these talks.

"Creating loopholes for the use of the rich not only maintains their disproportionately high emissions, but makes it so much harder to persuade anyone else to cut."

Delegates had been asked to consider low-carbon methods of travel to COP26.

Read more: Analysis: Negotiations grow 'tense' as climate summit nears end

A spokeswoman for the UK Government said: "As official UNFCCC figures show, COP26 is a substantially bigger event than other recent COPs, with over 39,000 participants as against nearly 27,000 at COP25.

"COP26 will be a carbon neutral event and will be the first COP to demonstrate carbon neutrality validation through PAS2060, the internationally recognised standard on carbon neutrality.

"As part of its analysis, the Government has for the first time included both the full blue and green zone impacts, giving a fuller and more accurate picture of emissions from the site."

The Government said the Arup report is a baseline assessment which would not fully reflect many of the emission-reduction measures, while final emissions will be confirmed following the event.