Insight

'Don't think everything is rosy': Days before world leaders arrive, is Glasgow ready for COP26?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has waded in to say she refuses to let Glasgow be 'talked down' ahead of the summit, as ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith reports


The world’s VIPs are jetting into Glasgow for a conference all about cleaning up the environment.

But if the Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Royal guests coming in ever dare to peer out beyond their high-security ‘Blue Zone,’ they will see another side to the city hosting them.

Bin collectors here are threatening strike action during COP in protest against increasingly dirty - and dangerous - working conditions.

There have been cuts to the collections meaning rubbish only gets picked up once every three weeks now. And while it lies on the streets and back courts, the rats are moving in.

Bin collectors are threatening strike action.

Chris Mitchell, the GMB Union’s Glasgow Cleansing Convenor, says two of his members have been hospitalised after being bitten or scratched by the rodents.

“What I would say to Joe Biden and co is when they come here, don’t think because you’re going down to the SEC [conference centre] that everything is rosy round about you,” he tells me.

“Ask somebody a question: is the whole of Glasgow ready for COP26? No, Glasgow has been completely let down.”

Greta Thunberg has sent her support to the striking workers of Glasgow, inviting them to march with her.

And Scotland’s First Minister was challenged on it today.

“Don’t talk Glasgow down,” said Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood today.

But it’s not just the bins - Glasgow also has an accommodation problem.

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

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A cruise liner’s been brought in to cope with the arrival of 30,000 delegates.

The huge demand and lack of supply is providing a cash boost for some - hoteliers and landlords have been able to put up prices.

But hosting COP also comes at a cost.

Hundreds of hospital appointments have been cancelled during the conference, the city’s museums are closed to the public - key roads shut off.

Glasgow is trying hard to keep up appearances on the world stage.

But on the other side of the ring of steel, the people who live and work in the city are wondering if they really are hosting COP, or merely being occupied by it.