At long last, COP26 is finally here. Tomorrow, the world's largest eco-jamboree will begin in Glasgow, with some 20,000 to 25,000 delegates expected to attend. For Alok Sharma et al, it must have felt at times that the 'last chance' to save the Earth was being damned by the gods themselves, with strikes, pestilence and vermin all plaguing the rat-infested city in recent months.
And there was one last biblical surprise for long-suffering civil servants yesterday: torrential rain in north west England and Scotland forced the cancellation of all trains from London to Glasgow. This prompted the latest eco-quandary for attendees: should they fly there instead?
Ministers have been advised against taking the plane in order to set an eco-friendly example but some of their desperate Whitehall underlings were seriously considering it last night. The Euston-Glasgow route has been horrendous all week, with three train switches in place of the usual direct route and hour-long delays each way.
One disgruntled delegate fumed to Mr S: 'Whether it's flooded Airbnbs that are already costing delegates on average £6,000 for a two week stay, or overcrowded train services with no social distancing that pull into stations with signs saying "thanks for travelling by train to COP26", the whole thing is starting to feel a bit comedy of errors.' Another said that 24 hours ahead of travel they did not know whether they were going to Glasgow or Edinburgh, such was the extent of confusion around travel and accommodation.
Organisers in both Holyrood and Westminster have had more than two years to plan rooms and journeys for the event, gaining an extra 12 months in April 2020 after the summit was delayed due to Covid. The lack of beds in Glasgow has seen MSPs priced out of their own hotel rooms around the Scottish Parliament, 40 miles away, with one cheeky Greenock resident charging £7,000 a week for his Inverclyde flat. Steerpike looks forward to getting his hands on the receipts...
Still, the planning could have been worse. COP will take place across two sites – the Blue Zone at the Scottish Event Campus and the Green Zone at Glasgow Science Centre. But Mr S hears that the original plan was for the first of these to be titled an 'Orange Zone.' It wasn't until the Glaswegian hosts gently explained why dividing a city with a history of sectarianism into 'Orange' and 'Green' sections might be problematic that organisers quietly amended their plans.