COP26: High expectations and complaints in Glasgow ahead of the United Nations climate conference
Glasgow is a city of contradictions. It is famous for knife crime, fried Mars bars and rainy weather but also for the warmth and kindness of its inhabitants. Its grayish horizon is punctuated with graceful spiers and historic domes and poorly maintained high-rise apartments in almost equal measure. It has the highest drug death rate in Europe, while its world-famous universities attract some of the brightest minds in the world.
Today, the eyes of the world are on Scotland’s largest city as it hosts the 26th Annual United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, dubbed COP26. For Glasgowians, the summit brings both high hopes and headaches.
An army of local volunteers
Community activist Graeme Edolls is among more than a thousand local residents who give up their free time in hopes of making the COP a success and realizing the city’s official slogan: ‘People make Glasgow’. “I wanted to make sure the local Glasgow people were heard as much as possible and get the message across about the impact of the climate crisis on the city,” he said. DW.
The Ph.D. student has spent the past few days carrying banners, flyers and COVID-19 tests around the city on an electric bicycle for the COP26 Coalition, a group of organizations and individuals rallying for climate justice. He will be on the ground to lead the activists on November 6, when some 50,000 people are expected to take to the streets of Glasgow to demand change.
“We also have many volunteers opening their homes to indigenous peoples from all over the world and other activists traveling here who were not priced at COP26,” Edolls said. Others still worked with lawyers to obtain visas for activists from southern countries. “I am proud that Glasgow is on the world stage,” he said. “But I’m a little apprehensive about what’s about to hit this town.”
“It could have been a Zoom meeting”
Shelby Robertson is already feeling the blow. She owns “The Avalon” pub, not far from the COP26 site. All nearby roads have heavy traffic restrictions, which means its staff, customers and deliveries are struggling to get in. “There is a lot of frustration and anger,” she said. “People here feel like it was forced on them; there was nothing to ask of the people of Glasgow.”
The disturbance is not limited to the immediate area. For Glasgowians, life will be full of new obstacles over the next two weeks. “People feel left out, left out and hit hard in some way, even if it’s for a good cause,” said Robertson. “I totally agree, I understand – but at the same time, there are a lot of things that seem very unfair. You just think: this could have been a Zoom meeting, as we all did by the spent two years. “
Fears of a COVID spike
Meanwhile, the UK is reporting tens of thousands of new cases of COVID-19 daily. And with tens of thousands of people arriving from abroad, some Glasgow residents fear dire consequences. “A lot of my clients are older and they are very worried,” said Robertson. “They’re worried that there’s a potential spike again because of all these people coming in and mingling, and we don’t really know who was vaccinated and who wasn’t.” Glasgow City Council insists all necessary COVID-19 measures are in place.
Opportunities for Glasgowians to benefit from COP26
But the influx of guests also means an influx of money for the people of Glasgow. Amid fears of a severe housing shortage during COP, Airbnb first offered a £ 100 (€ 119, $ 137) incentive to Glasgow residents on the website, pledging to donate the proceeds service charge to the charity “Zero Waste Scotland.”
Josh Hale was among those who answered the call. “Someone picked it up within six hours of it being uploaded,” he said. “It’s been a bit wild in Glasgow. There’s a buzz around the place.” Hale and his fiancee will be able to cover nearly three months of rent and put something aside for their wedding with the money they will earn by subletting 12 days to a Singaporean participant.
But he says a bigger reward would be seeing his hometown get a new entry in the history books. “It is a really exciting prospect for Glasgow to play a major role in the arc of the entire trajectory of the Paris Agreement,” he said. “Looking back 10 years from now, I hope there will be a ‘Glasgow Agreement’ which is seen as important if not more important than the Paris Agreement.”
“I want the world to see Glasgow as it is”
Volunteer Graeme Edolls believes that, with his gems, Glasgow’s deep inequalities should be exposed to show world leaders precisely why they need to take urgent action. “I want people to see the fact that this city has one of the lowest life expectancies for men and women in the developed world,” he said, “and the fact that we have a highway that marks our city.… Pollution directly contributes to the health inequalities that we see. ”At the same time, he explained,“ I also want people to see the spirit of Glasgow. The fact that the city perseveres. “