COP26 climate summit will create two Glasgows: one for the delegates, the other for locals – Laura Waddell

It’s exciting that COP26 will be in Glasgow. Such a massive global event, when all eyes will be on our city, and where issues of primary importance to the future of our planet will be discussed, debated and protested.

Just being close to the circus is quite awe-inspiring, even for those of us not donning a lanyard or taking part in any way.

My friends, with varying levels of pre-existing interest in climate politics, and on a spectrum of cynicism, are unanimously pleased and proud about the prospect of our city giving its name to a Glasgow Agreement, like the Paris Agreement previously. I’m intrigued to know how the foreign media will depict our dear, green place.

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But the scale of it all is really just starting to dawn on us citizens. Nobody wants to be nimby-ish about it, so we’ll take deep breaths while looking at the road closures and restrictions and think about the greater good. (That’s easy for me to say, working from home without a commute.)

A sense of dread is creeping up amidst all the hustle and bustle. The intense security detail that will accompany the world’s leaders, all descending on one place, will naturally prompt pangs of anxiety in onlookers: suddenly, their worst case scenarios are ours, too.

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Let’s face it, nobody is looking forward to the disruption that comes with staging an event of this magnitude, even if we are able to grin and bear it for 12 days.

The thing that might tip locals over the edge to disgruntlement, though, is special treatment afforded to delegates. If you see Joe Biden on the Castlemilk Circular, it may not be a figment of your imagination. Private Eye last week reported that Glasgow’s disparate transport companies will come together to offer delegates of COP26 a pass operable across train, subway, and bus – strikes aside, of course.

Artists paint a mural on a wall next to the Clydeside Expressway near the Scottish Events Centre which will be hosting the UN's COP26 climate summit (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

While there are some semi-integrated systems in use at the moment, in the form of season passes, we lack this kind of Oyster-like smart card that can be used easily across all transport in the city.

Now we know not only that the technology can be put into practise – since it’s possible to facilitate such a pass temporarily for our privileged COP26 visitors – but that the transport companies in question have somehow been convinced or compelled to come together and override any logistical difficulties for the sake of this UK government-organised event. The question is then why aren’t ordinary Glaswegians granted the same convenience? It hardly seems fair.

In essence, there will be two Glasgows during COP26. A mirage of a modern Glasgow that runs smoothly, where all transport is integrated, that conference delegates will comfortably and conveniently travel through. And the city everyone else has to live in, behind the road blocks and security zones.

With more ambition and willingness, the introduction of a permanent travel smart card would have been a great gift to the people of Glasgow, and a fitting local legacy left behind by COP26. Instead, citizens are becoming aware they’ve been relegated to second class.

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