A week before Cop and my Glasgow Airbnb landlord is giving me grief, demanding more money for something I booked months ago. He cancels and I grumpily tweet about it. I wake up the following day and my mentions are full of Scots demanding that I “name and shame”. Tabloids start printing the tweet. The Daily Record, Scottish Sun and even Daily Mail are on the case. Some ask for the landlord’s name and address. Nope. I talk to BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime and am asked if I harbour negative thoughts about the Scottish people (I don’t).
My trip to Glasgow from New York is punctuated by disrupted trains from London. I make friends with an American comic book writer who is bemused by the disruption: “Don’t they have weather here?”
I avoid first-day crowds by picking up accreditation on Sunday night and arriving at the Scottish Event Campus nice and early on Monday. Others are not so lucky as 10,000 or so people go through a series of iron gates and security scans causing lines that last for hours. Reaching the end of the line, colleagues are then told off by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour for wandering into her shot and laughing. At least she’s in the right city, unlike Wolf Blitzer, who’s at Cop26 in Edinburgh.
Inside it’s the usual mess of bright lights and stale sandwiches. This is my tenth Cop, but the first with a gigantic Dettol-branded welcome pack. My official Cop mask doesn’t fit.
World leaders arrive, make big announcements, and disrupt everything for us little people on the ground. Civil society is in uproar as we’re shut out of the rooms where things are happening. My trusty “observer” badge no longer grants access to most of the places I want to go.
Leaving the centre I’m trapped by thousands of police and barriers set up to shepherd motorcades to a state dinner at the university. The grey Glasgow skyline is punctuated by spotters and snipers. I meet an engineer who walks me around the barricades and through Kelvingrove Park. An understanding of fluid dynamics and first principles will be really important in the coming energy transition, apparently. This is concerning because I don’t understand either.
Day two and my new Airbnb has great photos of the landlord’s dog, Diego. I make the mistake of relaxing and having breakfast. That extra five minutes means the lines for entry are running at around an hour and a half. I start hearing wet Cop coughs. Nope.
Instead I head to a workspace in a recently abandoned Harley-Davidson shop near the station. There are no lines to get in and I feel like I’m working for an underground newspaper. Also, I can rent a Harley for £89 a month. Not clear if it’s electric.
Eventually, I make it back into the venue, where crowds of people run past after Leonardo DiCaprio, a ripped man wears a t-shirt saying “ask me about nuclear” and sings opera, and Nicola Sturgeon is spotted – sans security – taking a stroll. Cop26 is approaching overload and the UN has asked us little people to start “working remotely.”
Back in the US, senator Joe Manchin is refusing to sign up to President Biden’s Build Back Better budget deal, punching holes in US climate plans. Biden has also encountered “a large, naked Scottish man” taking pictures of him and his motorcade on a back road between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The president is clearly having a tough day.
One of the many Cop26 WhatsApps I’m on pings with the news that the first friend has gone down with Covid. I chat to an editor about his plans for the second week. We worry about the coming long nights, and for many countries, small delegations. Can they cope with Covid? The masks are beginning to make small indents in my face. Pass the Dettol.
Tan Copsey is senior director at Climate Nexus.
Cop26 diaries are a series of personal insights from people attending the Cop negotiations in Glasgow.