Queues, icy weather, and more queues; as the meetings finally got under way at Glasgow’s climate conference, organisation and admissions continued to be a problem.
About 2,000 delegates and journalists were kept in large crowds queueing outside the conference centre, with Guardian reporters noting there seemed to have been a lack of planning, as no attempt was made to encourage people to queue rather than simply press forward.
Also, covers to provide shelter from the elements had not been put up – despite rain being a fairly safe bet in Scotland at this time of year.
Dominic Kavakeb, a senior communications adviser at Global Witness, said it had taken more than an hour to move through security at Cop26 on Monday morning. “Too many important voices are going unheard at this climate summit,” he said. “Either because they were blocked from attending by vaccine or economic inequality or, today, because of poor organisation by the UK government.
“There is a special entrance for global leaders and, we presume, for major sponsors, so yet again it is activists, many of whom are from communities hit hard by the climate emergency, who are left out in the cold.”
Laura Young, attending the conference with the Christian charity Tearfund, said she and her colleagues were left queuing outside for almost an hour and a half.
She said: “I had colleagues arriving at staggered times throughout the morning and we all got held up in this mass of people queuing outside. I’m inside now and all the chairs are socially distanced but that obviously wasn’t the case outside. Hopefully it will get better over the coming days but yesterday there were people queuing in the morning saying they weren’t going to be able to make their meetings.”
Scenes like this have not been seen at a Cop summit since the poorly prepared Copenhagen conference in 2009 according to the Guardian’s environment correspondent, Fiona Harvey.
She said: “It is inexplicable that the hosts were not better prepared because I stood in a similar queue on Friday. They knew 30,000 people would come. This time thankfully it is not raining but they could have had a better plan for queue management. Like many people here I’ve already had a long journey, having left before 8am to get here, so there’s a lot of weariness in the crowd here before we even get started but everyone is still in good spirits and just eager to get in.”
Protesters were gathering too. Despite the freezing cold there were a couple of small protests already taking place, including a delegation from Uganda demanding Boris Johnson take action against the president, Yoweri Museveni, who is accused of a wide range of human rights violations including environmental destruction. A large Bangladeshi crowd gathered on the edge of the River Clyde demanding that the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, stand down. The summit always attracts political protests from across the world as activists take advantage of the international attention.
American grassroots activists from the Build Back Fossil Free coalition were expected outside the Cop26 blue zone entrance to demand the US president take executive action to stop the approval of fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency, building on the historic People v Fossil Fuels week of action last month in Washington DC
Activists are furious at Joe Biden’s likely narrative of “climate leadership”, which they say contradicts the daily suffering by communities on the frontline of gas and oil production in the US. In the first six months of the Biden administration, about 2,500 new oil and gas permits were authorised – a figure Donald Trump’s administration took a year to reach.
Meanwhile, inside the convention centre, it felt as if the whole world had arrived in Glasgow. The Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, and his team headed down one corridor, while in the opposite direction officials from Rwanda, Costa Rica and the EU gathered in the area where world leaders were due to arrive and speak. International reporters were diving in with questions in several different languages.
Mostly, people were trying to find their way around, meandering through the network of country pavilions, offices and coffee shops with long queues. So far, Scotland’s favourite drink has not proved a hit: there were lots of unloved cans of Irn-Bru piled up.