More optimism inside Cop26 than outside, claims First Minister

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A “greater degree of optimism” on reaching a positive outcome from Cop26 exists within the summit than outside, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Scotland’s First Minister was pessimistic about the possibility of the required agreements being reached, but by Friday she had changed her position.

Several agreements have been announced so far as the first week of the summit reached its end, with the International Energy Agency estimating the pledges made could bring global warming down to 1.8C if each were met.

Leading scientists have said warming must be contained under 1.5C.

Speaking to journalists on Friday, Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t want to overstate this or in any way count the chickens around this – there is a greater degree of optimism inside this place about the progress that might be made between now and the end of next week.

“I hope that is justified at the end of the day, but looking at some of the detail I think that slight increase in optimism is justified, we just need to wait and see if it materialises.”

She added: “I do think there is still a gap between the optimism in here, perhaps, and the sense outside that they’re not feeling that.”

Ms Sturgeon spoke as thousands marched through the city, led by young climate activists, in a bid to apply pressure to world leaders and negotiators to take the necessary action.

“There’s a gap there that needs to be bridged, but protest is part in bridging that,” she said.

“It’s about making the voices of people across not just the country but across the world heard in here so that it pushes that process even further.”

Crowds marching through Glasgow during Cop26
Thousands marched through the streets o Glasgow on Friday (Danny Lawson/PA)

Meanwhile, the First Minister said she would be at a march on Saturday – expected to attract as many as 50,000 activists to the city – “in spirit” due to engagements as co-chair of an environment group of cities and regions.

The Under 2 Coalition, which is formed of sub-national governments, includes a number of cities in the UK, as well as the Scottish Government.

“I might not be there on the march physically, but I will certainly be with the peaceful protesters – loud peaceful protesters – in spirit,” she said.

She added: “I’m somebody that the protesters are, rightly, trying to push to go further and that’s the dynamic there.”

On Monday, former US president Barack Obama is expected to come to Glasgow for the summit, but Ms Sturgeon said she did not “foresee” a meeting between the two – although she has met his former running mate President Joe Biden, former vice president Al Gore and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the first week of the summit.

On Friday, the First Minister convened the first meeting of her environmental council, which includes former UK Government adviser Professor Sir Ian Boyd, documentary film maker Gordon Buchanan MBE and Dame Ellen MacArthur.

A report published by the council laid out its priorities, saying: “Scotland, and all other countries, stand at a pivotal point with urgent and wide scale action required to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.”

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