Glasgow faces a ‘missed opportunity’ to shine at the World Climate Summit – News Couple
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Glasgow faces a ‘missed opportunity’ to shine at the World Climate Summit


A slew of headlines about property owners with price gouging, threats of a public sector strike and a reported rat epidemic have overshadowed Glasgow’s moment in the global spotlight as host of the COP26 climate summit.

Pride in hosting the most important international gathering in years was mixed with skepticism over prospects for a deal that would curb global warming and concerns about transport chaos that persist even after a major rail strike was called off just days before the rally.

At Majestic Laundrette on Argyle Street, a few minutes’ walk from the sprawling event complex hosting COP26, owner Allan Gordon has been looking to increase demand from local hotels.

But Gordon saw little benefit to the city from the world assembly and was scathing about the belated notification of road closures and other preparations.

“It’s an absolute mess,” he said. “They have taken two years to organize this . . . what the Glasgow Council, the Scottish government or the UK government are doing is completely outside my address.”

With Glasgow looking far from its best after council cleaning services were hit hard during the coronavirus lockdowns by the banishment of rules and staff absences, Gordon said global attention would hardly help the municipality’s reputation “already in the trash”.

To be sure, increased litter and graffiti tarnish parts of a city once celebrated as Britain’s “second imperial city”, but which has suffered severely from post-industrial decline and includes some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged regions.

Opposition politicians say COP26 will show the failures of the Scottish National Party, which controls both the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council.

“I love Glasgow, it’s my home, but frankly the SNP let him down,” Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar told the dissolved parliament in Edinburgh on Thursday.

“Tons of trash are piling up on our streets, swaying in height, and over a million mice. Sarwar told Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister and fellow Glasgow MSP.

Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar, left, shows a box filled by Barry McCarvey © Andrew Milligan/PA

Sturgeon dismissed such criticism as “shameful” of Glasgow, which she called “one of the greatest cities in the world”.

Some Glasgow residents say its waste problems are exaggerated. “You can get that in any big city,” said Jacqueline McKinnon, a receptionist at a dental clinic. “If you go to London there will be rubbish everywhere.”

“All cities have rats,” SNP Chair Susan Aitken told visiting British MPs this week.

“There is now evidence of an increase of about 25 percent in the rat population during the pandemic,” she said.

An annual survey conducted by the charity Keep Scotland Beautiful indicates that in recent years the streets of Glasgow have been the dirtiest of the country’s major cities. But Aitken noted that the normally cleaner capital, Edinburgh, ranked lower in 2020/21.

Fortunately for the council’s hopes of beautifying Glasgow for its COP26 meeting, the GMB union on Friday suspended a threatened strike by waste pickers while its members consider a new payment offer.

A separate strike by rail workers was called off earlier in the week to put COP26 planners off.

Jacqueline McKinnon
Jacqueline McKinnon says trash is a problem in any big city © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / FT

However, the dirty streets risk reviving its reputation for extreme urban deprivation that Glasgow has worked so hard for decades to change.

While still plagued by poverty and unsympathetic urban planning, the city boasts some of Scotland’s most vibrant culture, finest architecture, and a well-educated workforce that has attracted financial sector investment in recent years.

Along the River Clyde directly from the COP26 complex, Britain’s Barclays bank this month unveiled a new five-building “state of the art” campus, which it plans to employ 5,000 staff by 2023.

But in recent weeks, more attention has been focused on the lack of accommodation for COP26 participants, with some Glasgow property owners raising prices even for those who book in advance.

A more welcoming approach has been taken by the Campaign Against Climate Chaos Scotland, which has created a home-stay network that has arranged for around 1,300 guests for low- or no-cost accommodation with more than 1,000 hosts in Glasgow and nearby cities and towns.

But Cat Jones, the coalition’s COP26 project manager, said about 3,000 potential participants were still looking for a place to stay.

Health experts warn that the Glasgow pool may also help boost coronavirus infection rates, which are still high by European standards.

But the biggest risk to Glasgow’s reputation may come from the difficulty negotiators are facing in crafting an international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions capable of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius.

Alan McAllister
Alan McAllister cited late-falling foliage as a possible example of the growing impact of climate change © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / FT

McAllister’s van driver, Alan McAllister, said he wanted to see the summit result in a historic agreement of the kind reached in Paris in 2015 that set the 2C target.

McAllister, 51, pointed to the late leaves falling on trees along Argyle Street as a possible example of the growing impact of climate change that has demonstrated the importance of COP26.

“It will definitely put Glasgow on the map,” he said. “I just hope some good comes out of it, [otherwise] Glasgow will be seen as a missed opportunity.”



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