The highs and lows of COP26 climate talks

GLASGOW — After two weeks stuck inside the sprawling Scottish Event Campus, hashing out plans to save the planet from climate catastrophe, environmentalists, diplomats, delegates and journalists have been released blinking into the wild.

While the success or otherwise of the Glasgow Climate Pact will be pored over in the days to come, here are some of POLITICO’s summit highlights and lowlights from the U.N. COP26 conference, hosted by the U.K.

Highlights

Irn Bru: While queues for coffee were long and winding, fluorescent orange Irn Bru beverages were somehow always at hand and Scotland’s much-loved soda soon became the energy drink of choice for the discerning conference-goer. Its stock only went up after U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York was snapped quaffing one with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.  

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Mia Mottley: The prime minister of Barbados gave the speech of the conference, warning that a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature would be a “death sentence” for island nations and throwing down the gauntlet: “We can work with whoever is ready to go, because the train is ready to leave.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited her frequently in his own calls to action, evidently hoping for some stardust by osmosis. 

Alok Sharma: Self-styled “no drama” Alok Sharma was a quiet hit with international diplomats, ministers and officials for his courteous and careful manner in his role as Britain’s COP26 president. In Westminster as a Cabinet Office minister, he has always been seen as fairly unremarkable — or, let’s face it, boring — but this was an arena where his steady-as-she-goes approach was a genuine asset. On the train home, fellow passengers greeted him like a rockstar. 

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Friendly locals: Even though the descent of 14,000 COP26 delegates caused untold disruption in the city, Glaswegians were pretty sanguine about it all and gave the attendees a properly warm welcome. Fish-and-chip shops stayed open late to feed sleep-deprived journos and cab drivers navigated the road closures with determination. One enterprising Uber driver even said he quizzed a British minister off the record on his true feelings about the U.K. parliamentary standards scandal, threatening to put us reporters all out of a job. 

Lowlights

Queues: Britain is renowned as a land of queues and at a major international conference, they were always going to feature. But, for the first few days, they stretched to lengths that tested the patience of even the most-seasoned Brit. Lines snaked for miles through the cold outdoors only to enter the conference venue and lead to yet more queues — for coffee, for food, for entering the plenary hall. 

Sandwiches: This section of the report has been censored for reasons of taste. 

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Boris Johnson balls: The PM had a job to do at COP26, popping up every now and then to make sure the press was paying attention. But that didn’t mean reporters had to enjoy his increasingly tortured ball-game metaphors: From being “5-1 down” against climate change, we “pulled one back” before the conference degenerated into a rugby-style “rolling maul.” You can say that again.  

Not stopping global warming: Guess we’ll try again next year

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