Despite hopes that the Glasgow-based event will be pivotal for action against the climate crisis, The Glasgow Guardian has spoken to a number of students, residents, and workers in and around Glasgow who are concerned about some of the negative effects resulting from the UN Climate Conference coming to the city.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has referred to COP26 as one of “one of the most important gatherings of this century”, however a vast majority of Glasgow’s communal facilities are to be closed for most of the two-week conference, and many of Glasgow’s workers are currently striking due to “unfair” employment conditions. Grouping together, Unison, Unite and GMB are advocating for pay increases for workers, and for staff to take “targeted” action during the second week of the climate strike. As a result, city services and transport links already under pressure due to a significant influx of visitors for the conference will face further issues. This is alongside the housing crisis Glasgow is currently facing, with many students and locals finding the search for suitable accommodation “almost impossible”.
The Glasgow Guardian has provided significant coverage of the rent crisis facing Glasgow-based students in recent weeks, following oversubscription to University courses and deferrals from last year causing student numbers to increase in Glasgow. However, the arrival of COP26 has played a large part in the lack of available flat space. A number of landlords are reportedly holding off letting flats due to the rental price inflation expected as a result of large numbers of visitors coming to Glasgow for the duration of the conference. One source told The Glasgow Guardian that they were letting their flat for £800 per night over the period, whilst another told us that they were moving home for the two weeks whilst their landlord put the flat on the market.
Major roadblocks and diversions are looking to severely disrupt commutes to work and university for many. All traffic, including walking access, is banned from Kelvin Way, from 29 October-2 November, and between 5-6 November, meaning in-person access to campus is to be further restricted.
The Subway has temporarily changed its Sunday opening hours to run from 8am-10pm between 30 October and 7 November, changing from its previous timings of 10am-6.12pm. Frustration has been expressed across social media, with one user tweeting: “As if the subway has extended its Sunday hours for COP26… Not like the actual people of Glasgow have been asking for that to happen for years?”
A former University of Glasgow student Isaac Dorgan has created a petition on Change.org for these changes to be made permanent, which states: “Why does this extension have to end after two weeks? These current subway hours mean more people driving into the city centre on a Sunday, and women living in areas with poor transport links are being forced to walk home or pay the extortionate taxi prices. The people of Glasgow are just as important as these delegates and should be prioritised for public safety.”
Significant road closures are in place over the two week period. Finnieston is set to face severe disruptions, with many areas being restricted to local access only, and additional limits are to be placed on cars, bikes, and pedestrians. From 23 October-15 November, the Clyde Expressway will be completely closed to cars, however cyclists will still be able to use the route.
A Glasgow city council initiative has been set up on the Get Ready Glasgow website, where a “traffic jam heat map” will be made available for each day of the conference to help commuters avoid areas of congestion. The website is also being updated with information for cyclists and pedestrians.
After only recently returning to on-campus classes in late September, a number of in-person classes will be moved back online during the fortnight in which the UN Climate Conference takes place. University Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, David Duncan, stated that: “We’d like to assure colleagues that the University is not closing any of our campuses during the two weeks of the conference. This includes the University Library and study spaces.” However, many colleges have emailed out their own plans for the two-week period, with many courses moving the majority, if not all, of their teaching online.
Whilst rail strike action during COP26 has been called off after the RMT have agreed to a 2.5% pay increase and £300 COP payment for all ScotRail staff, industrial action is still expected from a number of other groups.
Glasgow’s bin men looked set to strike 96% of refuse workers voted in favour of action, however proposed strikes have now been cancelled following a new “eleventh-hour” offer of a one-year 5.89% pay rise.
Drew Duffy, organising and equality officer of GMB, commented: ““While we are pleased that more money for key workers has been found at the 11th hour, the fact it’s taken to the brink of the COP26 to get this offer speaks volumes to our members.”
Schools are to be affected with janitors, cleaners and cooks across the country voting for industrial action during COP26. Striking is to take place from 8-12 November, during the second week of the climate conference, and school employees will also be demanding the same pay rise conditions.
Currently, the University and College Union (UCU) have voting open, set to close on 4 November, for its members to decide whether to take industrial action before the end of the year. The results will be discussed by the UCU’s higher education committee on 8 November.
There have been a number of student protests expected to take place over the next fortnight. Climate activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) have planned a number of marches across the West End and city centre. On Friday 29 October, four activists chained themselves to the gates of the University using bike locks with signs stating “Decarbonise, Divest, Decolonise, Democracy” in a statement made to push the University to implement the “UofG Green New Deal”.
If the hosting of the UN climate conference has affected you in any way, please contact us by emailing [email protected].