The autumnal gales that damaged overhead power cables and felled trees along mainline train routes from London to Glasgow left thousands of COP26 delegates with little choice but to opt for more carbon-intensive travel options by air or road.
The day after teenage climate-change activist Greta Thunberg arrived by train at Glasgow Central station for the landmark summit, bad weather took its toll on the UK rail network, plunging the travel plans of many COP26 attendees into chaos.
UK Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith was among those who found themselves stranded, some overnight, at London termini or forced to disembark from stalled trains within minutes of their departure from the capital.
“I’m sat on a stationary train waiting for storm damage to be repaired so I can continue travelling to the climate summit in Glasgow — the irony isn’t lost on me,” Ellen Gibson, UK organiser at the 350.org campaign group, was quoted by the FT.
Another COP26 attendee, David Johnson, chief executive of a UK-based non-governmental organisation, was left sitting on his train from London Euston to Glasgow for more than 30 minutes before eventually being told to get off along with his fellow passengers.
Needing to reach the climate change summit, Johnson was forced to increase his carbon footprint by booking a last-minute flight from Gatwick (London) to Glasgow, which he admitted, “does, of course, seem ridiculous”.
“The irony of the climate impacting the trains, meaning a flight to the climate change conference is the only way to get there today, is not lost on me,” he told the PA news agency.
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to return to London on a private charter jet when the leaders' conference section ends later this week.
Challenged on this, a spokesman said the PM faced "significant time constraints" and stressed that the jet uses a mix of "sustainable" aviation fuel.
The average train journey from London Euston to Glasgow Central produces 23.69 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide equivalent while a flight between the two cities pumps out some 150 kg of CO2e into the atmosphere.
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