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‘Wing it with a few press releases’: Claire O’Neill slams UK Govt’s ‘cavalier attitude’ to COP26

Former UK energy minister Claire O’Neill has slammed the government’s “cavalier attitude” and in-fighting in the lead up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Ms O’Neill, dismissed as president of the UN Conference earlier this year by Dominic Cummings, hit back at her former bosses today, slamming the “the extraordinary ineptitude and amateurishness of those who should have been doing a better job”.

The UK Government has been contacted for comment.

Claire O’Neill – formerly Claire Perry – told a House of Commons committee of failings in the run up to the summit, including that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Treasury “did not want to host the COP”.

COP26, an international summit on climate change, will take place in Glasgow next November. The same UN summit five years ago produced the Paris Agreement.

Ms O’Neill said: “I think there was a misunderstanding of what was actually required to host what I think is the most important diplomatic event for the last 20 years and possibly for the next 20 years.

“I think there was a cavalier attitude to what was required and basically a view that you could wing it with a few press releases and that would all be fine.”

Referring to a suggestion by the PM’s former chief advisor that a COP President wasn’t needed (despite being mandated by the United Nations), she added: “There just did not seem to be any sense of what we were actually doing.

“This is a deadly serious diplomatic moment on which the future trajectory of CO2 depends, and I don’t think that sense of gravitas had percolated through. I’d like to think it is starting to.”

Following her sacking in January, Ms O’ Neill described an attempt to “monster” her reputation and that she had been encouraged to sue for unfair dismissal.

Part of her testimony highlighted that attempts had been made to increase the role of the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and former Prime Ministers in promoting it, though this had broken down due to “very petty” political conversations.

Claire O’Neill has previously said the government was “miles off” where it needed to be for COP26, but Covid-19 has brought some “breathing space”.

She added: “It has allowed diplomatic efforts, particularly from the EU, to bring China to a much better place, and it has delivered a new administration in the States who I think will be much more climate positive.

“So in that sense I think the world has changed dramatically in terms of the likelihood of a successful negotiated outcome at COP.”

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