COP26: Is it possible to get to Glasgow in a cheap and environmentally friendly way?

Credit: PA
  • Words by ITV News Multimedia Producer Connor Parker

With the government urging the world to come together in Glasgow and commit to ambitious climate change goals, have they done enough to ensure you could even get to the conference in an environmentally friendly way?

The COP26 conference, taking place in Glasgow, between 31 October and 12 November, is the biggest diplomatic meeting discussing climate change since the Paris Agreement.

The government has been promoting its green agenda for months, but one of the biggest ways to combat climate change is to improve public transport and make it more environmentally friendly.

With this in mind if you wanted to travel to Glasgow to attend the conference from somewhere in Britain you would likely find the most environmentally friendly method of transport would also be the most expensive.

ITV News looked at several ways to get to Glasgow from London, Manchester and Cardiff.

The government is hoping for COP26 to be a success. Credit: PA

Using various aggregator sites to analyse how expensive it would be to get to COP26 by train, coach, car or plane.

We searched for the prices on Friday, October 29 with the hope of travelling to Glasgow on Sunday, October 31 (when the conference gets underway) setting off around 9am.

Prices do fluctuate considerably for some of the modes of travel we searched (planes and trains) depending on how far in advance you book your ticket, whereas for other methods the cost remains roughly the same.

We also used various calculators to figure out how much CO2 would be generated by each journey.

As expected trains were by far the most environmentally friendly, with coaches in second, cars in third and planes in distant last.

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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Travelling by plane creates double the carbon to get across the country than a car and more than six times what a train would use.

A one-way plane journey from London to Glasgow would create around 160kg of carbon.

A single tree soaks up just over half a kilogram of carbon each year.

Travelling to Glasgow by plane from London would require roughly 320 trees to suck up a year's worth of carbon from the atmosphere to ensure carbon neutrality.

Many of the world leaders attending COP will be travelling there by private jet, including US President Joe Biden who will be arriving by Airforce One.



Train

Trains were by far the most expensive way of travelling to Glasgow from any of our chosen cities.

This is despite them being recognised as the most environmentally friendly method of travel available.

One of the problems ITV encountered was many trains at the desired time were already sold out, with all of the journeys from London without a change fully booked.

Travelling from London Euston to Glasgow Central at 9am cost £108.50, with a change at Edinburgh and just over five hours of journey time.

This would create roughly 24.5kg of carbon emissions.

Starting from Cardiff it takes significantly longer, even though the two cities are closer together.

If you set off at 9:30am you wouldn't arrive until 4:05pm, an almost seven-hour journey with changes in Crewe setting you back £137.40 and creating 23kg of carbon emissions.

Manchester to Glasgow takes three hours and 15 minutes and would cost £38.20 with 13kg of carbon emissions.

Trains are by far the most environmentally friendly way of getting around Credit: PA

Car

Driving is one of the harder to predict methods of travel as it is impossible to know if/when there will be traffic, if any diversions are needed, where exactly you're starting from, where you're parking and how much that parking will cost.

However, ITV News has had a go - according to the insurance support firm NimbleFins the average miles per gallon (mpg) for a British car is 36 for petrol and 43 for diesel.

Using this we've gone with 39.5mpg.

At the time of writing the average price of petrol had recently hit an all-time high of around 143p per litre of petrol and 146.5p per lire of diesel.

Prices have dipped slightly since then and for this example we have used 139.4p per litre of petrol and 143.1p per litre for diesel.

The following scenarios are set as if you are driving to the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow, where COP will be held, from the train stations of each city.

Setting off from London St Pancras to the conference centre is a 418-mile drive, which should take just under eight hours.

Just for the fuel and not including any parking or tolls it would cost £67.06 if you were driving from London St Pancras in a petrol car or £68.82 if you were driving a diesel.

It would also create an estimated 77kg worth of carbon emissions.

Cars offered the most freedom when it came to planning but were also one of the more expensive ways of travelling. Credit: PA

Setting off from Cardiff to Glasgow is a 391-mile drive and would take around seven hours with 72kg worth of carbon.

It would cost £62.73 in petrol and £64.39 in diesel.

If you were driving from Manchester it would take around four hours over 217 miles.

It would cost £34.81 in petrol and £35.73 in diesel and 40kg of carbon

Plane

Travelling to Glasgow by plane is only really realistic from London, and even then it was hard to find a realistic flight so soon in advance.

If you were setting off from Cardiff or Manchester then, unless you wanted a stop off in Greece for a few hours, it would be better to travel another way.

A last-minute ticket for Sunday from London to Glasgow would cost upwards of £200.

However, if you waited one more day the price drops to a fraction of the cost of much greener options - a flight from Luton takes just over an hour and sets you back £44.

If you did decide to fly it would create a massive 159kg of carbon emissions.

Coach

Although it's also on the road like a car, a coach is far more environmentally friendly because you're sharing the journey with several other people, rather than using all that fuel just to get yourself up to Glasgow

However, it is also by far the slowest method of transport ITV News has looked at.

Travelling from London to Glasgow would cost £20 on the Megabus and take 10 hours.

Starting from Cardiff would cost £43, require one change and take 12 hours.

If you were to set off from Manchester it would cost £17.80 and take five hours.

The carbon emissions for a coach are slightly higher than a car as they're a heavier vehicle but can be divided by however many passengers are on board, making them a fairly environmentally friendly option.