The signs are up, roads have closed, and hotels are prepared for a busy fortnight; COP26 has arrived in Glasgow.

This is the biggest event of its kind to be held in Scotland and some civil unrest is anticipated, so now is the time for businesses to check that they have insurance cover for the loss, injury or damage they might experience as a result.

What is COP26 and why should we be concerned?

COP26 is the yearly Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is the first conference since COP21, held in Paris in 2015, at which parties are expected to increase their ambitions to combat climate change. It is viewed by some as the most important climate summit in history. The guestlist includes world leaders, businesses, NGOs and the global media.

A total of 10,000 police officers from across the UK will be mobilised in Glasgow over the course of the conference from 31 October – 12 November. Various protests are planned, with Extinction Rebellion using "non-violent direct action" to create "deliberate disruption", hoping to focus the minds of world leaders on the scale of the crisis. The COP26 Coalition are organising a Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on 6 November, with a march and rally expected to attract up to 100,000 people.

COP25 in Madrid saw thousands of demonstrators gather, and that event had a much lower profile than this year's meetings in Glasgow.

With all that in mind, businesses should plan for the possibility of unrest and related damage and disruption.

Our business has public liability insurance, isn't that enough?

Following significant riots in 2011, the ABI advised that most businesses would be covered for damage to their premises caused by the riots, but individual policies will vary. The market has also changed since 2011 with the incidence of such events increasing and insurers looking to limit their exposure. It is important to check now that there is adequate cover in place, rather than suffering damage and finding there is no insurance cover to meet the cost.

Some policies will exclude indemnity for losses caused by strikes, riots or civil unrest. Others will exclude loss or damage caused by "terrorism" and definitions of terrorism vary. The Terrorism Act 2000 includes within its definition, activity involving serious damage to property or creating a risk to the health & safety of the public carried out with the motive of influencing the government or international government organisations, or to intimidate the public or a section of the public. Such a description could catch the unrest expected at COP26 and may mean, in the absence of specific provision for strikes, riots and civil unrest, that there is no cover.

Businesses should also check whether their insurance policy provides cover for interruption to trade. Some policies will not provide this cover where there has been no physical damage to the business's property. Where the interruption in Glasgow might arise from sections of the city being shut to the public in response to riots, rather than from damage cause to property, this could be an issue for those seeking to make claims.

Finally, it is important to check the level of cover your business has in place. There may be different limits imposed on different risks, but it may also be that the potential loss flowing from events at COP26 exceeds the current policy cover limit which was calculated without anticipation of such a large-scale event.

If in doubt about any policies or coverage, business operators should contact their insurance broker or solicitor urgently.


Kate Donachie

Legal Director

Jack Barratt

Trainee Solicitor