The Cabinet Minister was laughing.
They decided that everyone who attends COP26 had to be driven around by an electric car.
But so many people are coming they’ve realised they haven’t enough charging points.
So they’ve been scrambling to find diesel generators to help boost the capacity.’
A second Cabinet Minister was struggling to find the funny side.
I’m sick of it. Every time I do a speech, they try to slide some more COP nonsense into it.
Something about telling people to do less washing-up, or eat less meat. It’s ridiculous.’
A third Cabinet Minister was simply resigned: ‘COP’s turning into a circus. No 10 are trying to get a grip but it’s spiralling out of control.
They’re saying to foreign governments, ‘Can you keep the size of your delegations to a minimum?’ And they’ll be told, ‘OK, we’ll keep it down to 1,500 people.’ ‘
The UN Climate Change Conference, which opens in Glasgow on Sunday, is supposed to be the event that saves the planet.
But ask anyone in government and they’ll tell you the truth.
Save the planet, Boris Johnson… by axeing a farcical summit for the world’s worst hypocrites
It’s a farce. It’s degenerating into chaos. And to many, the best thing for the environment would be if Boris Johnson, right, just bit the bullet and scrapped it.
The whole purpose of COP26 was meant to promote global environmental sustainability.
Instead, it is being turned into a catwalk for the green showboating of the global elite.
Or, in the case of Japan, showplaneing. Last week it emerged that a specially configured Boeing 777 had been flown 6,000 miles (without passengers) solely to see whether the pilots would prefer to use Prestwick or Edinburgh airports when the official Japanese delegation arrives.
It’s also been announced that when the runway of choice has been chosen, special measures will be put in place to ensure arriving dignitaries can be whisked speedily to their destinations.
Unfortunately, COP26 has become so bloated that nearby roads will become gridlocked, so leaders will be ferried to their hotels along the Clyde Expressway, which has been turned into a VIP lane.
I understand the COP26 PR team, conscious of the questionable ‘optics’ developing around this orgy of pro-environmentalism, had hoped for some events to show global leaders utilising public transport.
But the opportunities are shrinking.
The Unite union, with a commendable eye to the main chance, has announced that more than 1,300 bus workers will use the conference to go on strike over pay.
If you think all this unfolding chaos is shaping up to be bad news for the planet, then spare a thought for the real victims: COP26’s corporate sponsors.
Veteran tree-huggers NatWest, Microsoft and Jaguar are among companies which have reportedly written to the Government condemning ‘mismanagement’ by the ‘very inexperienced civil servants’ organising the event.
But, painful though it is to see the opportunity for some greenwashed product-placement disappearing in a cloud of jet and motorcade fumes, what were those sponsors expecting?
Who in their right mind would hold a such a vital summit in the midst of a deadly pandemic?
As one Minister told me: ‘People think COP is going to last three weeks. But it’s been going on for over a year. And we’ve been trying to deal with something else quite big during that period.’
Covid’s shadow over COP26 was always going to be too long and dark. Vladimir Putin, who has been forced to announce a workplace shutdown across Russia to try to get on top of a surge in cases, isn’t attending.
Neither, it appears, will President Xi of China.
Last week, China’s economic recovery was thrown into reverse as the economic Covid aftershocks continue to reverberate.
And Joe Biden has had to tear up his original COP26 strategy as he struggles to manage America’s surge in virus cases and force his own ‘Build Back Better’ budget through the Senate.
Meanwhile, there are disturbing signs here that Boris is about to fall heavily between two Covid and COP26 stools.
Rishi Sunak is tearing his hair out trying to work out how to align the Prime Minister’s multi-billion-pound net-zero commitment with his need to tackle the £2.2 trillion Covid debt mountain.
Disused oil rigs anchored in the Cromarty Firth in Cromarty, Scotland. Ministers are expressing concern that as Boris’s notoriously fickle attention has drifted towards Glasgow, there has been insufficient focus at No 10 on the vaccine rollout
At the same time, Ministers are expressing concern that as Boris’s notoriously fickle attention has drifted towards Glasgow, there has been insufficient focus at No 10 on the vaccine booster rollout.
The argument within government is that the climate crisis cannot wait. Having been put back once by Covid, COP26 had to go ahead to refocus attention on another, potentially even more apocalyptic, global emergency.
But the opposite is going to happen. Rather than emphasise their stewardship of the environment, world leaders are again going to reveal just how detached they are.
Pressing ahead with COP26 while the globe is still struggling to contain Covid is the equivalent of forcing someone back into a burning building to carry on removing the asbestos.
Yes, the threat from global warming represents a real and present danger. But this morning, Covid and its economic impact are a more imperative one.
In order to tackle environmental challenges, people are going to be asked to make significant sacrifices.
And that will involve politicians – and the burgeoning green lobby and their sponsors – taking public opinion with them.
But instead of showing families that they have a plan for saving their planet, our leaders again seem intent on giving the impression they reside on an entirely different one.
COP26 is about to replace Davos as the event that most gratuitously frames the arrogance, hypocrisy and entitlement of the global ruling class.
Their gigantic jets will descend upon Prestwick.
And they will alight and tell us how we each need to reduce our global environmental footprint.
Their motorcades will speed along their exclusive expressway.
And they will get out, then inform us we have to do our bit by walking our kids to school. They will assemble for their plush banquet.
And after dessert and coffee, they’ll retire to put the finishing touches to speeches that lecture us about eating sustainably.
Worst of all, they think no one will notice their green doublespeak.
That this grotesque ‘do as I say, not as I do’ grandstanding will pass everyone by amid a kaleidoscope of polar bears, Greta Thunberg and homilies about our grandchildren.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson looking at the Orbital Marine Power stand in the Innovation Zone of the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum
Which might actually be the optimum outcome.
The best that the organisers of COP26 can hope for now is that as many people as possible ignore them.
That those concerned about where the next booster jab is coming from, or how they will cope with soaring fuel prices, will blink and miss this UN imitation of The Fyre Festival.
Because if they don’t, those same people aren’t going to be happy.
As I’ve written before, a dangerous disconnect is opening up.
Between those who believe that everyone has bought into their liberal, environmental consensus and those who want a recognition that we live in a complex world of competing priorities, not all of which revolve around the level of carbon emissions in 2050.
Anyone doubting this should have a word with the Insulate Britain protester who recently ended up tied by irate motorists to a railing with his own banner.
It’s very late in the day. But the best way of saving COP26 – and the planet – is to cancel it.