The Cop26 ‘gold rush’ in Glasgow: where will all the delegates stay?

More than 25,000 people will descend on Glasgow when the Scottish city hosts the 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (Cop26). During the 13 days of the summit, politicians and delegates will discuss how to tackle the global climate crisis, but before the event another major issue has arisen: where will everyone stay ?

From October 31 to November 12, Cop26 will take place at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), which is located on the banks of the River Clyde. The summit was billed as the “biggest ever political rally in the UK”, GlasgowLive reported. And every member of the UN has been invited, meaning nearly 120 heads of state are expected as well as around 20,000 accredited delegates, the BBC added.

Participants have already faced a number of “hurdles”, including Covid-19 travel restrictions and testing requirements, the FT said. However, getting a bed in the host city “turns out to be the toughest hurdle of all”.

housing crisis

High-level delegates such as US President Joe Biden will have no trouble finding accommodation. But for other visitors to Glasgow, the city is facing a ‘housing crisis’ with ‘skyrocketing’ rental costs and hotel bookings, the Daily recording reported.

Glasgow landlords are looking to cash in on the influx of visitors, with some asking up to £36,000 to rent a flat for the Cop26 fortnight, the FT said. “A single room at the Smiths Hotel in Finnieston, a 15-minute walk from the venue, is on offer at £14,000 for the two weeks of the event, before dropping to just £903 for the following two weeks.”

The ‘squeeze’ of available accommodation has driven up prices in Glasgow, BBC Scotland reported. On Monday, a room in the city was advertised for £42 a night, but during the summit it would cost £1,400 a night.

Fiona Hooker, from the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland campaign, said the cost and availability of accommodation was “a huge concern” for activists attending the summit. “It’s unbelievable that they can charge so much,” she told the BBC. “What people are looking for is a place to stay with a local person and the chance to feel part of the event.”

Cop26 fever spreads in Edinburgh

Glasgow’s ‘gold rush’ has now spread to Edinburgh, 40 miles east of the Cop26 host city, The Telegraph reported. Summit attendees are trying to ‘protect their wallets by going further’ in Scotland’s capital, but many will be ‘disappointed’.

A review of prices by The Telegraph found that on Monday the average for a room in Edinburgh on Airbnb was £315, while at the peak some hosts were charging upwards of £3,000 per night, or £36,000 for the whole conference.

The official Cop26 website has ordered delegates to stay in Edinburgh since at least September, the FT reported. And all the beds approved by the official accommodation provider, MCI, have been filled. Tagaloa Cooper-Halo, who coordinates several Pacific Island delegations, said the closest accommodation available is in Edinburgh. “Our people come from the other side of the world,” she said. “It’s going to be really difficult.”

Covid fears on cruise ships

Conference staff in Glasgow will be accommodated on two huge cruise ships which will be moored on the River Clyde during the summit, GlasgowLive reported. Tallink’s MS Romantika, which has a capacity of 2,500, has already docked at King George V Quay and a second ship, MS Silja Europa, will provide an additional 3,123 beds.

Public health experts have warned that using the ships could cause Covid outbreaks and trigger a new wave of infections.

Dr Rowland Kao, professor of epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said cruise ships are likely places with high transmission of Covid-19 due to enclosed spaces, especially if there is poor ventilation where people come into close contact. “Given the transmissibility of the Delta variant, even for vaccinated people, there will be risks,” he said. “So a lot of testing is going to be important.”

Dr Jeremy Rossman, Honorary Lecturer in Virology at the University of Kent, added: “We have already seen for the G7 summit in Cornwall the dramatic increase in cases after the meeting. It is very possible that something similar will happen with the Cop26 meeting unless significant precautions are taken, which given the easing of restrictions in Scotland seems unlikely.

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