Simon Pitts's TV Diary

Simon Pitts's TV Diary

Tuesday, 16th November 2021
Credit: STV
Credit: STV
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Torrential rain, protesters outside STV’s HQ and even Obama fluffs his lines. Simon Pitts experiences COP26 from the inside.

Day one of COP26 in my adopted city of Glasgow. I moved to Scotland nearly four years ago to join producer-broadcaster STV and I’ve grown to love it here. 

One of the big plusses is that I get to commute to work by bike, not tube, and I’m certainly glad of it today because COP has closed all the roads. 

The only downside to cycling is that you invariably get soaked. Even by Glasgow’s standards, today’s rainfall is biblical. Some would say it’s highly symbolic for the start of a global climate conference. 

When I arrive, our office looks like Alcatraz – 2.5m-high perimeter fencing and extra security staff on patrol. Our building is on the edge of the COP blue zone. 

We’ve been preparing for this for months. COP is simultaneously a huge news story, an opportunity as 
a broadcaster to demonstrate our commitment to climate action, and a massive security headache. 

Right on cue, a chap from Ocean Rebellion sets fire to his boat outside our office. Fortunately, there’s no danger. It’s also perfect for our news crew, who barely need to leave their desks to get some great shots. This is going to be a busy week. 

It’s hard to get your head around 120 world leaders flying into Glasgow. Certainly, it’s good news for the WH Smith in Glasgow airport arrivals. Joe Biden chooses Edinburgh to jet in on Air Force One. 

We spot Marine One hovering over our office. Once inside the COP auditorium, Biden announces that it’s fantastic to be in “Glass-cow”. 

Day two sees the start of a series of broadcaster events in partnership with the Albert consortium. 

Throughout the week, there are, among many others, panel sessions on whether the soaps can help spread the word on climate action; how weather presenters can help inform audiences via their bulletins; and how brands are stepping up in the climate fight. 

The Yorkshire Tea 100% carbon neutral campaign is voted the best green ad. 

The next day, I join the CEOs from Sky, BBC, ITV and Channel 4 on a COP stage to launch the Climate Pledge, a commitment to work together to bring climate action to life on-screen for our viewers. Unprecedented levels of harmony are on display. 

That night, we launch STV’s first on-air green promo campaign, highlighting little changes that can make a big difference, such as taking a shorter shower or not over-filling the kettle. 

This comes under the banner of our sustainability plan, STV Zero, which was launched at the turn of the year and will see us become a net zero carbon business by 2030. 

On day four, I attend the CBI dinner at COP. Eight hundred people in a room together feels very un-2021. 

US climate envoy John Kerry tells us this is the COP where big business has finally come to the party. I think he’s right. Playing our full part is now a moral and a commercial imperative. 

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern gives one of the keynotes, virtually, but tells us she’d much rather be with us in “Glaze-go”. It could just be the accent, of course. 

Even Obama, with all his oratorical skill, isn’t immune to the odd gaffe. 

He’s also in “Glass-cow”, by the way, but he thinks it’s in the “Emerald Isles”. 

My faith in the power of COP to bring us all together is restored by a conversation I overhear in a conference cafeteria at the end of the week. 

Two foreign delegates are at the chiller cabinet; one picks up a can of Irn-Bru and asks: “Do you know what’s actually in this?” 

“No idea,” says the other, “but it’s goooood!”. 

Scotland has definitely made its mark on the world this week. 

Simon Pitts is CEO of Scottish Television.