09 Nov Coronavirus: COP26 conference in Glasgow could still be held virtually in 2021, minister fears | UK News
A “traditional” COP26 climate change conference may not be possible in Glasgow next year if the world has not recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish climate secretary has told Sky News.
This week should have seen the arrival of thousands of delegates for the landmark climate conference where it was hoped world leaders would cement ambitious pledges to meaningfully cut greenhouse gasses and reduce global warming.
COP26 is now due to take place in November 2021.
But even with a 12-month delay, Roseanna Cunningham says she expects some elements of the conference will still have to be virtual.
She said: “I’m wary of trying to make any predictions at this stage.
“But our hope is that we can still deliver some form of COP in physical form as well as anticipating that there will be an enormous amount of virtual input.
“It will depend a lot on the progress in terms of defeating the pandemic.”
The SEC Centre, where the event was due to start this week, has now been turned into a Nightingale hospital for coronavirus patients.
The delay gives more time for diplomats to try to generate greater commitment towards tackling climate change and more time for Glasgow to prepare as the host city.
Hosting such a high profile climate event – the biggest since Paris in 2015 – will also hold a mirror to Glasgow’s climate credentials.
Critics say the city’s public transport system isn’t a great advert for it. There are also calls for more car-free zones.
Ellie Cunningham, chair of Get Glasgow Moving, a grassroots public transport campaign, told Sky News: “When visitors arrive from all over the world for COP26, they’ll be shocked at how expensive, incoherent and ineffective Glasgow’s public transport system is.
“This is exacerbating inequalities in our city, leaving some communities completely stranded, and causing a climate catastrophe as people are forced to buys cars.
“Any self-respecting city wanting to parade climate credentials and become carbon neutral by 2030 must have a world-class, fully integrated and affordable public transport system to match.”
Roseanna Cunningham added: “I think Glasgow’s working incredibly hard.
“It’s a city that has a good public transport system but knows it can be better.
“It’s not just about inviting people to come and learn from us, but it’s also challenging us to learn from others and there will be other cities with different solutions that we can learn from.”
Climate Ready Clyde, an initiative which is helping the Glasgow city region adapt and prepare for climate change, says if measures are not taken to tackle climate change it could cost the city region £400m a year by 2050.
Chairman James Curran said of Glasgow’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030: “It’s a very tall order, but this city is up for a challenge.
“The biggest challenge for Glasgow is the biggest challenge for everyone all around the world and that’s getting the investment in.
“This is a huge investment challenge and globally it needs trillions of dollars spent on it and the public sector alone cannot possibly do that. It needs the private sector involved as well.”
Glasgow’s adaptation of its canals shows how the city is trying to transition from its industrial heritage to a sustainable future.
The canals are being used to drain surface water from land prone to flooding. It means thousands of new homes are being built close to the city centre – brownfield land which otherwise wouldn’t have been so easy to build on.
Peter Robinson, head of engineering at Scottish Canals, says they’re trying to build “20-minute communities” – so people can live, work and go to school within a 20-minute walk.
The hope is that residents are not so reliant on cars or public transport so they can reduce their carbon footprint.
He said: “What we’ve put in place is the ability to get that surface water away in a controlled manner.
“Climate change is having to make engineers think very differently. We’re having to get on the front foot.
“We’re having to re-evaluate everything we do and make sure we are building things that are much more resilient than they were.”
The locals I spoke to don’t need any convincing about the spectre of climate change.
Stuart Ferguson and Henry Toal are enjoying a cup of tea in front of Stuart’s first floor flat.
Now retired, both men have worked outdoors all their lives – one as a labourer and the other as a binman.
Stuart said: “The rain seems to be getting heavier. Sometimes you look up and it’s bucketing down.”
Outside the corner shop we met Jean Keith – who admitted to a touch of eco-anxiety.
She said: “I do get worried it rains more, but we’ve got the conference in Glasgow so maybe people will talk and help change the climate for the future. It will definitely put Glasgow on the map. “
But the final word has to go to a woman named Greta.
Not the Greta. Greta from Venezuela – who lives in Glasgow – and calls the climate-campaigning Swedish Greta Thunberg an inspiration.
She said: “All of those things that Greta Thunberg was doing, you just don’t really hear about it anymore, so it’s sad.
“In Glasgow a lot of people are interested in the climate but not enough is being done to get people more involved. The climate is being forgotten.”