A thousand Scots gave up their time to support the summit
As the UN Climate Change Conference came to a close in Glasgow at the weekend, the COP26 volunteers who supported its staging have been reflecting on their experiences.
Over the last three weeks, 1,000 friendly volunteers took to the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh, helping delegates and visitors get around and providing thousands of people with a welcome filled with enthusiasm and warmth.
Stationed at transport hubs and active travel routes, including Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen stations, key shuttle bus stops, and the conference’s Host City Zone at City Chambers and Green Zone at Glasgow Science Centre, the passionate volunteers were out in force from 25 October to 12 November.
Spanning from 16 up to 78 years old, the proud volunteer force hailed from a broad range of backgrounds and were united by their passion for the environment and pride for their city.
Although born in 68 different countries around the world, the volunteers were mainly local, with more than 40% living in Glasgow and more than 95% living in Scotland.
Youngsters were also keen to get involved, with a third under the age of 26 and a fifth using the conference as an opportunity to volunteer for the first time.
Around a quarter of the volunteers could confidently speak the official UN languages of Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish, alongside English.
Motivated by the chance to play a part in the milestone international event, gain valuable life and career experience, learn new skills, meet new people, have fun and feel part of a diverse yet like-minded community, the volunteers have been looking back on their experience with fondness.
Shuttle hub volunteer Harjot Singh Kambo, from Clarkston, said: “I’m very grateful to have played a small part at COP26 in Glasgow, supporting the city which raised my family. Braving the November chill, I made new, kind friends and cracked jokes with the bus drivers along the way. We helped delegates from all over the world with a smile and spread awareness about the wellbeing of our planet in the process.
“It's not everyday you get to fist-bump a Kyrgyzstan official or have some banter with a Solomon Island diplomat! Although it was gloomy outside, it was important to stay warm and sunny on the inside with, of course, our distinct bobble hats to match! I will always remember when the world came to Glasgow, united together in this global challenge.”
Green Zone volunteer Rachel Irwin, originally from Liverpool, has been living in Scotland for five years and decided to get involved. She said: “I volunteered at COP26 because Glasgow has become my home and it’s nice to be involved in something that’s unique to the city and make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in COP in some way.
“The highlight for me – amongst meeting well-known people – is getting to know the other volunteers. It’s a diverse group of people who I wouldn’t get to meet in my daily life. It’s also a really nice feeling and heartening to see how many people care about climate change and have come together to take action.”
Leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Susan Aitken said: “I would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations and a big thank you to all of our volunteers who went above and beyond to give up their time to play their part in COP26. The volunteers’ smiles and enthusiasm warmed up the city’s streets this November and I hope it was a rewarding and memorable experience that they can look back on with pride.”
COP26 president, Alok Sharma, said: "COP26 is one of the most important events ever held in the UK and I am hugely grateful for the dedication shown by the volunteers who generously gave up their time to support this conference.
"It has been incredible to see people from such a wide range of ages and backgrounds unite in their enthusiasm for protecting the planet, and brave all weathers to welcome everyone to COP26. I know their positive attitude and warmth has made a difference to all those attending the conference."
Volunteers could be identified by their vibrant sustainable uniforms, complete with snug bobble hats. They can now keep their uniforms as a memento of their volunteering experience or drop the items back to the volunteer team, where they will be donated to a local homeless charity or sent to be shredded to generate clean energy power.
Anyone interested in volunteering in Glasgow can visit www.volunteerglasgow.org to find out about available opportunities.