THE COP26 climate change conference due to take place in Glasgow in November may not go ahead because of a lack of progress in lead-up talks, its former chief has said.

Claire O’Neill said there was now a “question mark” over whether the two-week event at the SEC would take place as planned or be delayed.

She also urged the leaders of the G7 countries meeting in Cornwalll this week to set the right tone, given the urgency of the climate crisis, to help ensure the Cop took place.

Ms O’Neil, a former energy minister formerly known by her married name as Claire Perry, was nominated as Cop26 president in September 2019.

However Boris Johnson sacked her a few months later in order to install a serving minister in the role, giving it to then business secretary Alok Sharma. 

Speaking to BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Ms O’Neill the 198 parties to the Cop were currently in virtual negotiations, but were failing to advance as required. 

She said: “The reason for Cop to happen is a series of negotiations which have to happen in 198 directions, and they are not as focused as people would expect on this enormous climate emergency and the need for really rapid action.

“If you think now that those negotiations are happening virtually for three weeks, there is a question mark, truthfully, over whether the negotiations will happen at Glasgow at the end of the year.

“I’m hearing from very reliable sources that at the end of this virtual negotiation period, the parties, the 198 parties, will decide whether they’ve made enough progress to go ahead in Glasgow. And of course there is then a question about in-person or virtual [attendance], because some countries find the idea of virtual negotiations to be very difficult.

“If the G7 could do one thing, it would be basically to set the tone that we have to have this Cop. We’re two years late, the evidence is so stark about the need for action.

“The world’s businesses are lined up ready to act on this. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we couldn’t have a full cop in Glasgow because the negotiators couldn’t agree?”

She also said it would be a “terrible mistake” if the negotiators chose to delay the Cop to hold face-to-face meetings rather than do some parts virtually.