Martyn McLaughlin

The Scotsman / Scotland on Sunday

The United Nations COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow was one of the most important diplomatic summits in history, tasked with averting the world from catastrophe. Few stories are more important, and Martyn McLaughlin’s reporting illuminated the hypocrisy, contradictions, and corporate interests underpinning - and undermining - the major event hosted by the UK government.

In the months leading up to the summit, Martyn devised a systematic plan with which to build up contacts linked to the conference, while also developing a series of data and FoI-led approaches so as to scrutinise its planning and delivery. From cultivating sources with Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Cabinet Office officials, hitting the ground to talk to temporary contractors working at the COP26 venues, or using advanced Excel skills to interrogate official data, he produced exclusive environmental investigations followed up by the international media. His groundwork paid dividends when he produced a front page splash and four page investigation in September 2021 exposing the derisory energy efficiency record of the COP26 venues. Through old-fashioned shoe leather reporting, freedom of information requests, and analysis of government data, Martyn’s report showed that the venues were emitting 6,600 tonnes of CO2 a year. It showed there were no renewable energy sources in place, and revealed the owners had failed to act on a series of legally binding improvement measures. But Martyn went further, disclosing the sprawling carbon footprint of government buildings, with heating-related CO2 emissions at Downing Street increasing for two years running. Martyn then delved further into the network of contracted COP26 companies. Poring over procurement records, he found details of a £250,000 contract secured by Arup, the engineering firm, to serve as the summit’s “official sustainability advisor.” Digging deeper, Martyn uncovered deals struck by Arup with fossil fuel firms, and his front page story detailed how it had designed and installed offshore platforms in oil and gas fields as far afield as New Zealand and Turkmenistan. It was also part of a consortium targeting the development of marginal fields in the North Sea. Yet Martyn arguably saved his best reporting for when he was at the summit. He drew on his contacts to get hold of a preliminary report detailing the carbon footprint of the entire event. It showed COP26 was on track to be the most polluting gathering of its kind, with CO2 emissions more than doubling compared to the last summit. International flights, the report added, accounted for a staggering 60% of the 102,500 tCO2e being pumped into the atmosphere. Martyn’s front page report was followed up by news organisations the world over, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the BBC. Dale Miller, head of news at Scotland on Sunday and The Scotsman, said: "Martyn has enjoyed an exceptional year in delivering a series of compelling exclusives. His key strength is his ability to land agenda-setting stories that have both national and international relevance, extending beyond just Scotland’s borders, and that distinguish our titles from the crowd."