UK government criticised for lack of women on team organising COP 26 in Glasgow next year

The UK Government has been fiercely criticised for its “implicit failure” to recognise women after it emerged an all-male team would be leading the COP 26 climate summit planned for Glasgow next year. Xander Richards explains in an article on The National website.


Implicit failure’: UK Government slammed for fielding all-male Cop26 team

Initially planned for November 2020 but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Cop26 talks represent a “vital time for climate action”, according to the convention president, UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma.

Sharma will be joined on his all-male team by Lord Callanan, a parliamentary under secretary for business, Zac Goldsmith, the environment minister, and business minister Kwasi Kwarteng.

Boris Johnson and his foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, are both due to take prominent roles at the conference, which is to be the first “global stocktake” of progress made since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Sir Robert Watson, the former chair of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, said last year that governments would need to “double and triple” their current reduction commitments to be aligned with the Paris target.

Elsewhere at Cop26, Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, will lead on finance as a UN envoy, and Nigel Topping, who was appointed the “UK High Level Climate Action Champion” in January, will focus on bringing businesses onboard.

The Guardian reported that the leading negotiators and civil servants also form an all-male lineup, including the chair of the talks, Peter Hill, the lead negotiator, Archie Young, the envoy John Murton, and the Foreign Office official Nick Bridge.

Women are represented at a more junior level, working on some subsections of the negotiations, and among the ambassadors charged with talking to other nations ahead of the talks.

The previous president of Cop26, Claire O’Neill, was dropped in January this year after Johnson decided he wanted a minister in the role.

O’Neill suggested at the time that the UK Government couldn’t cope with an independent team managing the talks.

The talks have also been a source of contention between Westminster and Holyrood, with Johnson reportedly saying he doesn’t want First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “anywhere near” the event.

Commenting on the absence of women in the Cop26 team, a spokesperson for Sturgeon said: “Women and girls around the world are on the frontline of the fight for climate justice, and the UK Government’s implicit failure to acknowledge that speaks volumes about its own attitudes, although it is perhaps not surprising coming from a Government which has made clear its intent to flout diplomatic and legal norms and to break international law.”

The former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, was just one of the other voices criticising the gender imbalance.

Robinson, who was twice a UN envoy on climate issues, told The Guardian: “This diminishes the impact [the UK will have].

“Gender divisions in climate are very significant. Having women in leadership is important to ensure these issues are enthusiastically taken up.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “If ever there was a moment for real diversity in our leadership, this is it.

“So many communities are affected by [the climate crisis]. We need a team of all talents, and that must be diverse in all respects.”

A government spokesperson said: “The UK is committed to championing diversity and inclusivity throughout our COP26 presidency, and our network of leaders, diplomatic representatives and expert voices reflect this in all of their work.”

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One thought on “UK government criticised for lack of women on team organising COP 26 in Glasgow next year

  1. Remember what Clare Perry O’Neill said when Johnson suddenly fired her as President of COP26:
    ” My advice to anybody to whom Boris is making promises – whether it is voters, world leaders, ministers, employees, or indeed to family members- is to get it in writing, get a lawyer to look at it, and make sure the money is in the bank.” (BBC Radio 4 Today programme, 4 February 2020)

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