Three weeks have passed since COP26 left town, and the world’s politicians, negotiators and campaigners have moved on. But the spirit of what happened in the streets, the homes and the communities of Glasgow is still very much alive and active.
This city of Glaschu, our Dear Green Place, was a significant location to hold the UN climate conference. Glasgow’s foundation myths may concern a robin, a salmon, a tree, and a bell, but the city was the spark and the engine of the industrial revolution. The eyes of the world were on decision-makers at COP26 to “let the earth flourish”, to misquote the city motto.
The city’s famous friendliness, and strength of grassroots organising, came to the fore as the people of Glasgow rose to the challenge of being host city.
One of many people acknowledging this was Tina Stege, climate envoy to the Marshall Islands where climate change is posing an existential threat. On her way home, she tweeted: “Goodbye Glasgow. People here were some of the most welcoming and warm-hearted I have ever met. Kommol tata/thank you.”
Over 1,200 Glaswegians opened their homes [through the COP26 Homestay Network] to activists and campaigners, to offer a “home-from-home” and a “haven”, as described by two visitors. This connected local families directly with what was happening. “It made us feel that we were a part of the climate action and we’re doing something to help,” said a host. “I have found a new family,” commented a guest.
Alongside the official UN conference, Glasgow became a melting pot of creative, alternative, and community-centred climate-related activities. It was the antidote to COP, the anti-COP. If COP was about talking, these spaces were about acting – and making things happen.
The Climate Fringe website, organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, became a place where anyone interested in the climate emergency could find out what was going on and be part of something bigger. There were more than 1,000 civil-society events, creating a sense of togetherness and welcome, many of them focusing on inclusion, arts and culture.
Glasgow’s people more than stepped up as local hosts. They have re-written the story of COP26, bringing a narrative of a future held by the people, and in the hands of communities who choose to change the direction of travel. This was a Conference of the People, the Climate Fringe of COP26. Glasgow flourished.
Looking to the future, we will need huge amounts of creativity, resilience and determination if we are to meet the challenges of the climate crisis.
For inspiration, we need to look to those communities, groups and campaigns who organised during COP, and the culture, creativity and new thinking brought together in spaces across Glasgow for those two weeks.
I heard more than one person say that, after this moment of collective effort, Glasgow will never be the same. We need to ensure that the world is not the same either.
Dr Kat Jones is COP26 Project Manager for Stop Climate Chaos Scotland.