Cop26 Diary: Airbnb-gate and Dettol

A week before Cop and my Airbnb landlord from Glasgow gave me grief, demanding more money for something I booked months ago. He cancels and I tweet grumpy about it. I wake up the next day and my mentions are full of Scots demanding that I ‘name and shame’. The tabloids start printing the tweet. The Daily recording, scottish sun and even Daily mail are on the case. Some ask for the owner’s name and address. No. I talk to BBC Radio Scotland Driving time and people ask me if I have negative thoughts about the people of Scotland (I don’t).

My trip to Glasgow from New York is punctuated by disrupted trains from London. I befriend an American comic book writer who is stunned by the disturbance: “Don’t they have time here?”

I avoid the first day crowds by collecting accreditation on Sunday evening and arriving at the Scottish Event Campus early on Monday. Others aren’t so lucky as around 10,000 people pass through a series of iron gates and security scans causing queues that last for hours. When they come to the end of the line, the colleagues are then reprimanded by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour for wandering into her plan and laughing. At least she’s in the right town, unlike Wolf Blitzer, who is at cop26 in edinburgh.

Inside, it’s the usual mess of bright lights and stale sandwiches. This is my tenth Cop, but the first with a gigantic Dettol branded welcome pack. My official cop mask doesn’t fit.

World leaders are coming in, making big announcements and disrupting everything for us little people on the ground. Civil society is in turmoil as we are excluded from the rooms where things happen. My trusty “watcher” badge no longer gives access to most places I want to go.

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As I leave the center, I am trapped by thousands of police and barriers erected to guide motorcades to a state dinner at the university. Glasgow’s gray skyline is dotted with spotters and snipers. I meet an engineer who walks me around the barricades and through Kelvingrove Park. An understanding of fluid dynamics and first principles will apparently be very important in the coming energy transition. It’s worrying because I don’t understand either.

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Day two and my new Airbnb has great photos of the owner’s dog, Diego. I make the mistake of relaxing and having breakfast. Those extra five minutes means that the queues for entry last about an hour and a half. I start to hear the wet cough of the cops. No.

Instead, I head to a workspace in a recently abandoned Harley-Davidson store near the train station. There are no queues and I feel like I am working for an underground newspaper. Plus I can rent a Harley for £89 a month. Not clear if it’s electric.

Eventually I make it back to the room, where crowds of people are running after Leonardo DiCaprio, a ripped man wears a t-shirt saying “ask me about nuclear” and sings opera, and Nicola Sturgeon is spotted – with no security – taking a stroll. Cop26 is approaching overload and the UN has asked us little people to start »work abroad.”

Back in the US, Senator Joe Manchin refuses to sign on to President Biden’s Build Back Better budget deal, punching holes in US climate plans. Biden also met “a tall naked Scottish man” taking photos of him and his motorcade on a side road between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The president is clearly having a tough day.

One of many Cop26 whatsapps I’ve been pinging on with the news that the first friend came down with Covid. I chat with an editor about his plans for the second week. We are worried about the long nights ahead, and for many countries, small delegations. Can they cope with Covid? The masks are starting to make small indentations on my face. Pass the Dettol.

Tan Copsey is Senior Director at Climate Nexus.

The Cop26 diaries are a collection of personal insights from people taking part in the Cop negotiations in Glasgow.

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