‘We were caught half-dressed’: ambivalent Glasgow awaits Cop26 | Cop26
DIwali candles in pretty terracotta pots are stacked around the counter at Suresh & Sons grocery store in Finnieston, the Glasgow district that borders the UN-run ‘blue zone’ of the Scottish Event Campus. Next weekend, more than 30,000 delegates from 196 countries will converge on the region for the crucial two-week COP26 climate conference.
Four days after the start of the event, it’s the Hindu Festival of Lights, explains Leena Kumar. The council has advised her to talk to suppliers about delivering inventory before the road closures start this weekend, but it’s not that easy, she says. “We’re well informed, but we still don’t know what’s going to happen,” she laughs.
Like many residents of Finnieston, Kumar is philosophical about the conflict between local inconvenience and global importation. “Children are excited about famous visitors and they talk a lot about the climate at school. It will be difficult, but this meeting is about the future of the world ”.
Glasgow City Council has sent 9,000 letters to residents and businesses in areas of the city most likely to be affected by the unprecedented influx of politicians, security officials, lawyers and protesters. The Get Ready Glasgow website and regular email newsletters have been running for months, although critics say the information has been too web-centric, but there have been walk-in tours, community council meetings and home visits.
Along Argyle Street, regularly described as one of the hippest areas in the UK, locals are mixed up. The pizzeria is worried about how its delivery drivers will pick up orders. The vegan cafe has hired additional staff. High-end restaurants report group bookings: “In November, every day is a Saturday,” explains a chef.
It’s special for the city, says Gillian McIntyre, owner of Cafe Mayze, standing in front of a display case full of shiny frozen cakes: “People will be talking about it for years and there’s ‘Glasgow’ in the title. You hear reports that this is humanity’s last chance, and it’s happening right there, ”she said, pointing Minerva Street to the blue zone.
Further down this street to the left a two bedroom apartment can be rented for £ 1,024 a night, another to the right is available for £ 1,638. Both are new announcements on Airbnb, and available only for the duration of the conference, perhaps proof that locals have accepted the company’s incentive to donate all income from stays during the summit to the group. Zero Waste Scotland Advisory.
With 30,000 delegates expected but only around 15,000 hotel rooms in Glasgow, there is a large accommodation deficit, with some delegations expected to be forced to book hotels more than 160 km from the venue. Two Estonia-based cruise ships moored on the Clyde have been chartered by UK government contractors to provide rooms for security and production staff.
Those without unlimited resources struggle even more. The Cop26 Homestay network, which launched in May, aims to connect hosts from across Scotland’s central belt with visiting activists, scientists and non-governmental organizations. Backed by the Scottish government, around 1,000 Glasgow residents have signed up, but the waiting list remains at 2,500, adding to fears that those with the most direct experience of the climate crisis will be excluded from the event .
Christy Mearns, a Glasgow councilor representing the inner city neighborhoods close to the Blue Zone, along with colleagues from the Scottish Greens liaised with La Minga Indígena, a group of around 140 tribal chiefs who attended each cop since Rio de Janeiro in 1992, but are stuck with no rooms in Glasgow.
Mearns urged Glasgow City Council to consider more creative options: In previous summits, the local government has worked with activists to provide hostel-style accommodation for those who couldn’t afford expensive hotel rooms, by converting sports halls and community centers into dormitories. While acknowledging that the Covid-19 restrictions add an extra layer of difficulty this year, she describes their lack of practical action as “deeply disappointing.”
The council has also faced mockery of the state of the city’s streets, with a reduction in garbage collection, a rat infestation and an increase in fly spills causing visible havoc. Earlier this week, garbage workers confirmed they were planning to strike at the conference, as concerns grew that the city’s summit arrangements would fall into chaos.
The RMT union confirmed last week that members who work for ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper will stage industrial action during the duration of Cop26, while ScotRail engineers are also planning a series of 24-hour work stoppages, both as a result of wage disputes.
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.
While the UK government, as chairman of the cop, is responsible for organizing the conference and all costs, sources were quick to blame the Scottish government and the Scottish National Party-led council for having allowed so many disputes to merge around the cop, with warnings from the opposition. parties that Glasgow is about to be humiliated on the world stage.
Glasgow council urged cleanup workers to reconsider strike action during a “busy and difficult time”, while Transport Scotland says it hopes for constructive talks between all parties before the summit begins.
In addition to the green pay zone across the river from the main conference site, which is open to the public and civil society groups, visitors to Glasgow can attend a plethora of events in ephemeral places across the city.
But this exchange of ideas comes at a cost: Devi Sridhar, Edinburgh-based professor of global public health, tweeted Thursday: “A mass event, with large movements of people in and out, with an infectious virus will lead to an increase in cases. Which, in the case of Covid, will put stress on limited health services. “
Paul Sweeney, the Scottish Labor MSP for the Glasgow area, said: “It looks like something happening in the city rather than for it, and there is no vision of using it as a springboard to recover of the pandemic. “
He pits the Cop26 against the organization in Glasgow of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, “when every part of the city felt involved”. “There is an air of ambivalence, especially in the context of cuts and disputes, places in limbo and transportation issues.
“It’s like we’ve been caught half-dressed.”