RISHI Sunak will transform the City of London into “the world’s first net zero-aligned financial centre, underpinned by world-leading regulation and economy-wide net zero transition plans”.

That sounds impressive (if also slightly incomprehensible). But then so was the £100 billion-a-year pledge made by the developed world back in 2009. But not only did cash for the Global South fail to materialise, its delivery has just been postponed till 2023. Still, what’s 14 years between friends?

Mr Sunak assures us that his City of London green clampdown will be different and impossible to avoid thanks to mandatory annual progress reports. For the sake of the planet, we must pray he’s right, but prepare for the eventuality that he isn’t – blown off course by evasion, obfuscation, cut corners and downright lies.

Am I looking a gift horse in the mouth? Is that churlish? Is it typical of independence supporters to suspect the British Government, even when it seems to have pulled off a massive shift in gas guzzling investment patterns?

Or is suspicion entirely justified by the British Government’s chequered track record on all matters sustainable?

The National: Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivering his Budget speech to the Commons on Wednesday

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It’s currently considering a new coal mine, a massive new oil field near Shetland, has awarded contracts for carbon capture (as if that unproven technology can single-handedly mitigate CO2 emissions instead of mopping up the tiniest fragments) and cut taxes on domestic flights.

If there’s a way to look green, whilst letting the biggest polluters carry on as normal, Boris Johnson has serious form in finding it. Indeed, his government is currently turning a blind eye to the activities of Drax – the massive coal and biomass burning power station in Yorkshire that sits at the heart of the East Coast Cluster bid that recently beat Aberdeenshire for a carbon capture contract.

Drax is the UK’s biggest emitter but claims to be net zero because it burns imported woody biomass. Astonishingly, both the UK and the EU treat wood chips as automatically carbon neutral since companies promise to plant replacements, even though saplings take 40-100 years to reach maturity – if they are actually planted. Even more astonishingly, the carbon emitted in Yorkshire is officially chalked up to the place of origin (conveniently abroad) not the place they are actually burned (here).

It’s a nonsense but still, who cares? So long as Drax can get away with it, the UK Government is happy. To be fair, so are the authorities in Estonia, where acres of pristine forest are being felled to feed biomass power plants around Europe which badge themselves “green” by blending wood pellets with coal.

But in April, environmental campaigners in the Netherlands won a court ruling against RWE’s Eemshaven Power Station, which burns 0.8 million tons of wood pellets every year alongside coal.

And last week a complaint was lodged at the OECD against Drax. Not by big business, or a well-funded government, but by a bunch of civic society groups, academics and professionals. These are the real climate champions, doing the heavy lifting and legal donkey work to shut down big emitters who’ve found loopholes their national governments seem happy enough to thole.

And yet these are the very people who’ve been shut out of COP26 all week. And that’s disastrous – because they’re the only ones keeping the governments and billionaires of the world straight. And boy do they need it.

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Take the COP26 announcement by Jeff Bezos. The Amazon founder and world’s richest man promised $2 billion toward restoring natural habitats, saying: “Nature gives us life. It is beautiful but it is also fragile. I was reminded of this in July when I went into space.”

How does it save the planet to use precious resources propelling billionaires into space for no scientific purpose? Why did Bezos need to reach space to understand the climate crisis? Why not just listen to the voices of people whose homes could soon be underwater, whose rice crops might collapse and whose lands are being desertified right now?

BECAUSE that’s just not how these guys roll. After delivering his empty-headed homily to a damaged planet, Bezos headed home on his £48 million private jet – one of 400 travelling to or from the Glasgow summit. This astonishing double standard prompted a Daily Telegraph writer to observe: “Bezos has just given COP26 its Marie Antoinette moment.”

You know, the French queen who surveyed starvation all around and reportedly said “let them eat cake”. A rich person completely disconnected from the people’s reality. So c’mon. Who keeps self-deluding billionaires real, clean and honest?

Who will monitor hard-to-reach world leaders and billion-dollar men to make sure they comply with their lofty aims and don’t slip back into their old, planet-destroying ways?

The answer is simple. Volunteers, NGOs, charities, pressure groups and civic society groups who work round the clock, round the year and round the globe for nothing. Yet these are the very people groups kept at arm’s length during Boris Johnson’s Glasgow summit, at least until the key decision makers have flown home. Civic society observers care, act, insist, inform, articulate, chase, risk and spend the only resources they have – time, passion and energy – to push the big players, check deeds match words and thereby protect the planet and all of us. Yet they’ve been treated with disdain and disregard at the Glasgow summit against all our unwritten rules of hospitality and inclusion.

Earlier this week, I battled through queues to get into COP26 (or rather its outer exhibition areas) which were full of observers from the Global South watching world leaders on laptops, with the inner sanctum and vital plenary sessions declared out of bounds. Over-priced food at cafes ran out about 2pm at around which time the UNFCCC organisers sent a message declaring “Entrance may be limited to participants whose physical presence is essential” – leaving observers who nipped out for food locked out of the whole event. The same thing happened even earlier on Tuesday.

For veterans of previous COP events who’d travelled halfway round the world, this was infuriating, because they know COP summits aren’t normally such exclusive affairs.

Why does this matter? One of the Paris organisers told C4 News that the crucial 1.5C limit was agreed right at the end of the 2015 summit because world leaders were still present, having their ears nipped by NGOs and campaigners in every plenary session.

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In Glasgow, by contrast, observers were virtually banned from proceedings while world leaders were present, and they chose to appear at the start, not the end. Word is that anticipating failure on a global 2050 net zero target, politicians decided not to be there owning that failure at the end.

Still, there may be more access for civic society observers now that leaders have scarpered with their security staff and entourages.

But it’s just as likely that Glasgow will be remembered by dedicated campaigners as the world summit where they were made like girning extras. We should feel outrage and shame at the way Boris Johnson’s COP has shoved the world’s activists aside – but not surprise.

One way to show support is to virtually attend the People’s Summit next week. In-person seats have mostly sold out. Another is to focus our thinking about independence. It may not be in our power to make COP26 the welcoming, inclusive event it should have been.

But please the Gods, may it soon be in our power to ensure Scotland’s next world summit bears no imprint of the disdainful, duplicitous British establishment.