Credit: Rothery Sullivan

This town ain’t big enough for the 30,000 of you

By Michelle Osborne

Michelle Osborne examines how the city has mismanaged the accommodation of thousands of attendees.

COP26 has only just started, but for Glasgow-dwellers like myself, the dread of hosting has been in the works for weeks. 

These conferences are held annually and facilitate agreements between countries to reduce climate change. In the past, these conferences have been well documented due to their large scale, such as COP21, where the Paris Agreement was created. COP26 is expected to be just as important, especially given its delay due to Covid-19. The conference should be a good thing – it is influential governments coming together to agree to stop climate change!

But for those living in Glasgow, it’s a bit harder to get behind.

In the city, everybody has been warned about travel issues for these weeks; adverts keep flooding my podcasts reminding me about the awful traffic at the beginning of November in the central belt, all because of COP26. Not only is this completely against the spirit of preventing climate change, but it disrupts everybody. Though it’s been announced that the subway will be open late on a Sunday and that Scotrail are running night services, these choices benefit delegates and attendees more than Glasgow’s residents (and we all know that these changes will cease when COP26 is over).

Any student will also know about the housing crisis that this conference may have caused. The University of Glasgow recently sent out an update email regarding the accommodation issues that students were having and explained that they were certain that more accommodation would become available after the conference. Many flats around Glasgow have been listed on short stay let websites for a ridiculous amount of money. Landlords have chosen to refrain from renting to residents or students in favour of a quick return from COP26 attendees.

And now the government is asking locals to open their homes to attendees of the conference. This seemed ridiculous to me – why should we be opening our homes to people for something that is already causing so much chaos? And yet, when my brother asked if he could stay with me during the conference, I had to say yes.

My brother has been asked to speak at the conference about sustainable shipping methods. This invite was rather last minute, and by the time that it could be properly arranged all accommodation in the city had been booked. Any room free was extortionate and he simply could not afford to stay there.

Understandably, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak at a United Nations conference, so I offered up my flat to stay. His company can save a couple of hundred pounds on a room, and I will get a cheeky free takeaway.

However, this is not because the government has asked me to do this – I am a proud little sister who wants to help her brother have a great opportunity. If anything, the government asking residents to take in attendees deters me from doing it. Surely when Glasgow was chosen as the host for this conference, it should have been evaluated whether the city actually could have so many people visit. It seems completely irresponsible that the government would agree to hold the conference when it is overwhelming the services in the city. It is increasing rent prices for already stretched student budgets, creating awful travel problems, and is producing a hell of a lot of stress for all parties involved.

While I support events that promote preventing climate change and love the idea of these international events being held outside of London (which would be a natural choice), I do believe that this event has too much of a strain on residents and should have been organised far better. You cannot rely on local generosity to drag along a mismanaged event.


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