Climate conference president flies to 30 countries in seven months

The benefit of meeting in-person was thrust into the spotlight once again after it was revealed COP26 President Alok Sharma has flown to 30 countries in the last seven months.

The government minister responsible for this year’s UN climate change conference in Glasgow was accused of ‘hypocrisy’ after racking up tens of thousands of air miles in quick succession.

Sharma is currently pressing the flesh in South America, where he has visited Bolivia and Brazil, both countries on the UK’s prohibited ‘red list’ of destinations and Covid-19 hotspots.

So far Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, India, Costa Rica, Qatar, the UAE, the Far East, and Bangladesh – all during the winter and spring, according to a report in Mail Online.

Sharma did not have to isolate after any of the journeys as he was exempt as a ‘crown servant’.

The UK is hosting the delayed climate change conference Cop26 in Glasgow in October and November. It is the first time since the Paris Climate Change conference in 2015 that countries will set new ambitions for targets in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Green party peer Jenny Jones said: “‘I do understand it’s very good to meet people in person, but this is excessive. When you’re in charge of Cop26, to take this many flights is hypocritical.”

However, a government spokesperson defended the minister’s travel itinerary.

“Helping take world tackle the climate emergency is an international priority for the government. Virtual meetings play a large part, however face to face meetings are key to success in the climate negotiations the UK is leading as hosts of Cop26 and are crucial to understanding first-hand the opportunities and challenges other countries are facing in the fight against climate change.”

In an interview last month, Sharma said ‘we all need to play our part’ in taking measures to stop the climate crisis and encouraged small changes which could make a difference.

Speaking to AMI last month, Anna Abdelnoor, co-founder of sustainable event consultancy isla, said: “Questioning the need for an in-person event and if it can be delivered virtually is the first point of call for positive climate impact, followed by using in-person experiences to drive positive behavioural and cultural changes – from slow travel to green plates and experience over consumerism”

But she added: “Events like COP through to the Olympic Games, which provide an outlet for national cohesion and celebration, in-person events provide real value to individuals, communities and for change-making and shouldn’t be written off.”


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