NICOLA Sturgeon has hit back at critics who claimed she “has no real reason to go” to the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

The First Minister confirmed she intended to visit the conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, on the coast of the Red Sea, in late October – with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set to snub the global talks. However, Sunak later U-turned and decided to attend.

Appearing on Sky News on Monday, Sturgeon was asked why she was at COP27 if Sunak was there.

After the First Minister said she hoped to play a part in tackling “the accelerating emergency of climate change”, host Kay Burley asked: “Isn’t that what Rishi Sunak is doing already? Could you not have done what you needed to do remotely?”

READ MORE: World leaders urged to follow Scotland’s lead on climate change compensation

Burley’s question echoed critics such as Tory MSP Liam Kerr, who claimed Sturgeon had “no real reason to go” to the Egypt summit.

In response, the First Minister said: “No, this is the fifth COP that I have participated in and it’s really important to be here, to be having the discussion, to be playing our part in finding the solutions.

“Rishi Sunak is here – I welcome that, I think it is right that he is here.

“If you look in a UK context at many of the decisions that will determine whether the UK as a whole meets its own climate obligations, many of them, for Scotland, are responsibilities of the Scottish Government – renewable energy, for example, energy efficiency, changing how we travel – so it is really important that everybody with a part to play does that to the full.”

Sturgeon further pointed to Scotland’s role as co-chair of the “Under2 Coalition”, the world’s largest network of states, regions, and other subnational governments which have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Other states and regions involved in the Under2 coalition include California and New York in the US, Sao Paulo in Brazil, Lombardy in Italy, Bavaria in Germany, Punjab in India, Victoria in Australia, and Quebec in Canada.

Sturgeon told Sky: “Together we represent something like 50% of the global GDP and many of the levers for tackling climate change lie in our hands. It’s really important that everybody with a part to play does that to the full.

“Scotland was also the host of COP26 last year in Glasgow and the Scottish Government played a part in putting some key issues at this COP on the agenda, loss and damage for example.”

READ MORE: Scotland reacts as Boris Johnson declares himself the 'spirit of Glasgow' at COP27

The First Minister was given a “Ray of the Day” award at COP26 after she announced Scotland would be providing £2 million for a new “loss and damage” fund. The money is meant to help the poorer nations which have contributed less to the climate crisis but may suffer more.

She said that it was thanks to the agenda-setting move from the Scottish Government at the previous COP that loss and damage was in focus at the current one.

“If you speak to many campaigners, many governments particularly from the global south, they warmly welcome Scotland’s contribution here generally on this issue, but particularly on the issue of loss and damage,” Sturgeon said.

“Without the intervention last year of the Scottish Government, it is unlikely that we would be seeing that issue with the prominence it has now in Egypt.”

Sturgeon has travelled to COP27 with Mairi McAllan, the SNP environment minister, and Susan Aitken, the leader of Glasgow City Council.

She said there was an "overwhelming" view among the public that it was important for Scotland to be represented at the climate talks.

Challenged on why Aitken had also joined in the trip, Sturgeon said she was there to hand over the reins to the next host city.

“Glasgow was the host of COP last year,”the First Minister said. “Susan is here to hand over the COP responsibility to Egypt to Sharm el-Sheikh this year.

“Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city. Scotland won’t meet its climate change targets if the city of Glasgow doesn’t do that.”

She went on: "I think there would be more pertinent questions to ask of people like me and Susan Aitken if we weren't playing our full part in discussions like this ... and actually showing the leadership that we need to see if the world is going to properly address this challenge."

READ MORE: Patrick Harvie: Independence is Scotland's only hope to tackle climate crisis

Sturgeon said there were "governments at all levels represented" at COP27, and claimed she would be "abdicating responsibility" if she did not attend.

The Scottish Government has said that "final costs and number of staff that attended will be available after the trip" after criticism from the Tories and Labour.

Scottish Labour's finance spokesperson Daniel Johnson claimed the Scottish Government was “frittering away eye-watering amounts of pounds of public money sending politicians on a jolly”, while Tory MSP Liam Kerr said the Government should “be up front about how much taxpayers' money is being shelled out”.