Companies that have raised millions of pounds to sponsor the Cop26 climate summit have condemned it as ‘mismanaged’ and ‘at the very last minute’ in a flurry of complaints ahead of next month’s event in Glasgow.
The sponsors, which include some of Britain’s biggest companies, have lodged formal complaints accusing “very inexperienced” officials of making late decisions, poor communication and broken relations between the organizers and the companies at the time. approaching historic talks.
The Guardian understands that a letter to the organizers, written by broadcaster Sky and co-signed by senior executives from other Cop26 sponsors, raised concerns with them about these and other issues, and followed a another letter co-signed in July.
The UK is leading its Cop26 chairmanship in the Cabinet Office, under the leadership of former business secretary Alok Sharma, who is the chairman of Cop26, and businessman Nigel Topping who has been named the government’s top climate action champion last year. The sponsorship is expected to help cover an estimated police bill of £ 250million.
Along with Sky, the summit has 10 other major sponsors, including energy giants Hitachi, National Grid, Scottish Power and SSE, US tech titan Microsoft, and FTSE companies GSK, NatWest, Reckitt, Sainsbury’s and Unilever. Other lower-level “partners” include automaker Jaguar Land Rover and furniture retailer Ikea.
A source, employed by a sponsor of Cop26, said that “the biggest frustration” was the lack of information on the course of the event and the role of its major funders, as important questions remained unanswered. response and planning decisions were delayed.
“They had an extra year to prepare for Cop due to Covid, but it doesn’t look like that time was used to make better progress. It all seems like the last minute, ”the source said.
The next climate talks, seen as the last chance to put the world on track to realize its climate ambitions, are expected to take place in early November after the event was postponed for a year due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020.
They have already been shocked by suggestions that Chinese President Xi Jinping would skip the event, threatening the chances of a global pact with the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide.
The organizers of Cop26 have promised the sponsors an “exceptional opportunity” and “unique advantages” in return for their support, including a chance to promote their brands in the exhibition space of the “green zone” conference and the participation of government ministers in their events.
But in several official emails and letters, companies have complained to organizers about unmet expectations and growing concerns about delays in green zone plans. They also raised complaints that ministers were not always available for their events in the run-up to Cop26, as agreed under sponsorship deals.
Other sources have described the “shifting goal posts” and “inertia” plaguing the planning of Cop26 as “deeply frustrating”.
Many of the event’s funders regularly participate in large-scale sponsorship deals for large events and have been baffled by the slow progress of Cop26 events, another source explained.
The source blamed the “very young and very inexperienced” officials responsible for planning the event for taking a “top-down public sector approach” which raised issues among the sponsors.
“It is clear that many of them have very little experience in managing relationships in the private sector, or even the experience of attending a Cop event,” the source said.
The energy company’s sponsors – Hitachi, National Grid, Scottish Power and SSE – would be particularly frustrated as they felt that no other energy brand would feature at Cop26. However, the “blue zone”, organized by the UN, will include competing brands.
Ministers were due to release three key documents on Monday on the government’s plans to reach its goal of net zero by 2035, but publication was delayed due to the murder of MP Sir David Amess.
The documents reveal a clear split in the cabinet, between on one side Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, and Michael Gove, head of home improvement in the UK, seeing all the benefits of strong climate action; and on the other, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, a liberal hawk instinctively opposed to government intervention.
All three newspapers are now expected to appear later in the week, as the government seeks to preserve an appearance of unity on the publications.
The row over the government’s handling of Cop26 planning emerged amid public order concerns, with up to 150,000 protesters expected to take to the streets of Glasgow in early November alongside crucial climate talks, which will require one of the largest police operations ever undertaken in Britain.
Countries and organizations planning to host events also said they were concerned that rising costs could cause problems for developing countries.
Several attendees told The Guardian earlier this month that the cost of renting the pavilions at Cop26 – event spaces for hosting workshops, panel discussions and keynote addresses during the conference – is considerably more. higher than at Cop25 in Madrid, with some claiming it had risen by as much as 30%.
A Cop26 spokesperson said the organizers “were working closely” with the sponsors, which would increase value for money for taxpayers and reduce the overall financial cost of Cop26.
Fiona Harvey Additional Reports