‘It’s been a rollercoaster’: Glasgow reflects on Cop26 fortnight of change


‘It’s been a rollercoaster’: Glasgow reflects on Cop26 fortnight of change

Influx of delegates has brought excitement and new connections – as well as a little inconvenience – for residents

Cop26 delegate Patsy Contardo, left, with her hosts, Fiona and Matt Hooker, at their home in Glasgow

“I can’t believe how early it gets dark here,” says environmental lawyer Patsy Contardo, who has spent the last two weeks experiencing Scottish culture, from Tunnock’s teacakes and shortbread to the great British weather.

Contardo, a Cop26 delegate from Chile, was staying with Glaswegian hosts Fiona and Matt Hooker, who opened up their home to her as part of the Cop26 Homestay Network aimed at helping foreign delegates faced with sky-high accommodation costs in the city; rates rose to more than GBP1,000 a night in some hotels.

“We’ve learned so much from each other and it was particularly great having a younger woman come to stay, as at these conferences there are often quite a lot of men who tend to be older,” said Fiona. “Cop has been great but having Patsy here to stay has definitely been a highlight.”

About 1,200 Glaswegians took part in the network, organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and the Cop26 Coalition, hosting 1,663 delegates from around the world and forming strong friendships with their guests – Fiona and Matt plan to stay in touch with Patsy after she leaves.

“What has impressed me is that people from all walks of life – couples, individuals, families, older people – have wanted to do their bit and be a part of Cop,” said Fiona, adding that she hopes the diversity of delegates will have a lasting impact on the city. “One of my colleagues had a guest from Nigeria and she said it was fantastic for her son to be able to meet somebody from an African country because he doesn’t really know many people from different cultures.”

For Patsy, getting to know the locals has also enhanced her experience of the conference. “I’ve loved learning about Scottish people’s ideas of climate change and how it affects them. Everyone has different perspectives because we have different lives, different governments,” she said.

Glasgow has felt very different over the past two weeks, with Cop26 delegates exploring the city and stocking up on whisky and Irn-Bru, and many locals have relished the excitement of having a huge global event on their doorstep.

Thomas Cornwallis holding a bicycle

“It’s been brilliant. It’s an experience we’re never going to get again,” said Thomas Cornwallis, 23, who took a week off work to soak up the atmosphere and attend events across the city. “It’s been amazing to hear all these different voices in Glasgow and hear the energy; I’ve met so many people. So it has been a great thing.”

However, the conference has come with its fair share of inconveniences as well. As convener of the campaign group GoBike Glasgow, he knows many people have struggled to get around the city because of road closures, and there are plenty who are looking forward to a return to normality.

“They’ve closed off a key corridor through the city and people just didn’t know where to go,” he said. “So I think some people want to get it over and done with, but I think they also hope the event has shown the need for more cycling infrastructure and a better public transport network.”

Businesses near the SEC, where Cop26 took place, are also looking forward to some calm after a hectic few weeks. Gillian McIntyre, the owner of Mayze cafe, brought in extra staff to deal with the number of people coming through her doors. “It’s been a rollercoaster, but I think for the most part we’ve managed to keep on top of everything,” she said.

Although businesses in the city centre have reported quiet trade as some locals chose to stay at home to avoid protests and road closures, McIntyre hopes on the whole that Cop26 will leave a positive legacy for the city.

“It’s been truly amazing. We’re just really grateful to have been at least slightly a part of it,” she said. “Where else do you get exposure to such a vast range of people from around the planet all in one place?”


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