‘It’s raining incredibly’: Glasgow welcomes Cop26 activists amid waste crisis | Cop26

It’s not raining as Maria Azul arrives at Glasgow Airport from Buenos Aires, but there are so many clouds in the sky that she knows it will fall soon.

This is Azul’s first visit to the city, as part of a Cop26 delegation of frontline activists from Latin America and the Caribbean and she has been duly warned that the time of late fall is “incredibly windy and rainy”.

Her host, Irina Martin, originally from Bolivia but living in Scotland for over 20 years, told her on Zoom about warm, waterproof clothes she could lend him.

Martin, who opened his home in Giffnock, southwest Glasgow, as part of the Cop26 Homestay Network, which pairs local hosts with visiting activists, scientists and non-governmental organizations struggling to find affordable housing during the summit.

Martin loves to cook and plans to make Bolognese and Bolivian peanut soup.


“We had a budget, but the prices have gone up incredibly,” said Azul, who arrived on Thursday. “For a room that normally cost £ 40, they would charge £ 300 or £ 400. So we are truly grateful to our hosts, but also disappointed that the Presidency and the organizers have allowed the market to prevail and prices to soar.

Glasgow’s chronic housing shortage and price inflation have been well documented – despite searching for rooms for 1,360 visitors, there are 3,000 more on the waiting list. Earlier this week Airbnb banned a host to take bookings during Cop26 after trying to increase an agreed rental by almost £ 1,500.

While Azul can now engage with more than 30,000 delegates from 196 countries within the UN-managed Blue Zone of the Scottish Events Campus, Tim Hewlett of Scientific rebellion, a coalition of militant academics, will be well beyond the perimeter of the fence. Hewlett remains on the other side of Edinburgh‘s central belt, having been “out of Glasgow price”.

A Cop26 banner at the conference site on the banks of the Clyde. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod / The Guardian

Staying in another city “adds another layer of cost and complexity,” he says, especially since he comes up with a detailed protest shopping list that includes 30 yards of chain, not the most portable of quantities. Hewlett believes nonviolent civil disobedience is the only option left to draw attention to the end of the climate crisis, and Glasgow will be the focal point for protesters from Sunday, with Extinction Rebellion predicting a “high impact disruption “and Greta Thunberg joining a school strike march next Friday.

To questions from the Prime Minister on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon called on those coming to the city to protest to do so peacefully, and not to add to the disruption the people of Glasgow are already experiencing. Public health experts have also raised concerns that protest rallies pose a higher risk of Covid transmission than within the Blue Zone, with its stringent testing requirements, although main steps also advise the wearing of the mask and the preliminary tests.

Hewlett is adamant that while direct action “always wants to target the most responsible and bring on board those who have the most to lose,” the disruption caused by climate degradation is “far beyond anything. that protesters can do ”.

Field of Climate Fire art installation in George Square
Field of Climate Fire art installation in George Square Friday. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod / The Guardian

In the meantime, he’s relieved he can catch the train to Glasgow after the RMT union called off a crippling industrial action following a last-minute wage deal on Wednesday night. With Scotrail now promising improved net zero electric train services between Glasgow and Edinburgh during the summit, earlier concerns that preparations were falling into chaos have eased to some extent – but not all differences have been resolved.

Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar met with cleaners threatening to strike at the summit on Friday morning. Despite assurances from SNP Glasgow management that staff are working ’round the clock’ to prepare the city, Sarwar has condemned the Scottish government for ‘ignoring’ the current waste crisis, with reduced waste collections resulting in a rat infestation and an increase in fly spills. Later that day, it was announced that the strike had been called off after the local authority coordinating body, Cosla, made a new wage offer to the unions.

Meanwhile, criminal defense lawyers are threatening to boycott the Scottish government’s plans to deal with the potential arrests of hundreds of protesters each day, amid a row over cuts to legal aid funding, with senior legal officials warning against the overflow of cells.

Police attempt to stabilize a road closure sign in strong winds
Police attempt to stabilize a road closure sign in strong winds. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod / The Guardian

Despite the city council Get ready Glasgow campaign, the reality of the massive road closures around the summit venue, which began last weekend, has proven difficult. With the Clydeside Freeway, one of the main arteries in the city center, completely closed, traffic is already increasing elsewhere and the resulting cycle lane diversion has raised serious concerns. While residents are advised to cycle rather than drive to avoid traffic jams, cyclists have reported that the new routes are poorly signposted, chaotic and at times dangerous to use.

Bob Alston, Cop26 volunteer
Bob Alston, Cop26 volunteer. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod / The Guardian

Then there are those whose enthusiasm is intact. Later Thursday afternoon, and in direct contradiction to the weather forecast, clouds clear over the Cop26 campus, the sky resolves to a vivid blue, and sunlight dances over the River Clyde beneath the stylish Clyde Arc. At the nearby Blue Zone bus stop, Bob Alston is already leading visitors disembarking from the dedicated summit service.

Alston, one of Glasgow’s 1,000 volunteers, says: “I’m retired and thought, I can do it. On his first shift, he met a delegate from Turkmenistan: they are now friends on Facebook.

As a handful of early arrivals stroll along the river, he admits it’s hard to imagine what the city will look like with the tens of thousands more expected. “It’s good that this is happening here, my only hope is that something really gets done. “

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