Wed. Oct 20th, 2021

A variety of organizations aiming to host events at the UN climate conference in Glasgow in November expressed concern at this year’s COP26 summit about delays and the extremely high cost of building pavilions.

Seven environmental and government groups told the FT they were surprised by the large sums quoted for building pavilions as shortages of labor and materials delayed planning and pricing.

One leading scientific organization has said that in total it is about £ 500,000 to rent the space, to build the structure and to pay for important items such as furniture and audiovisual equipment.

According to a UN official, this year’s land rent was about 30 per cent higher per square meter than in Madrid in 2019. The construction and material costs were also higher than usual due to the shortage of stock, the official added.

The resulting delays have raised questions about whether construction will be completed in time for the summit to be held in the UK, which is less than four weeks away.

WWF, the charity, said that although the annual pavilion cost differs, “this year we have noticed that there has been a more significant increase than we have seen before”.

The charity added that the conference was important for the influence of policymakers and that it was ‘essential’ that all countries as well as civil society be represented.

Countries, scientific groups and non-profit organizations attending COP conferences often commission the temporary structures where they host educational events, meetings and parties. This year is being built in the center of Scottish Event Campus by Orientations Events, based in Glasgow and Hamburg.

“From the beginning, Orientations said ‘try not to use too many walls, because it will be very expensive’, ‘says Michael Funch, project manager of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ pavilion. “They knew there would be stock cramps.”

The total cost for the group’s structure of about 100 square meters is about £ 150,000, or about a third more than that of the previous COP in Madrid.

“It’s really difficult for anyone with no more than £ 100,000 to be able to build a pavilion and secure that kind of representation,” Funch said.

Temporary buildings erected to provide extra capacity on the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference
Temporary buildings erected to provide extra capacity on the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference © Jane Barlow / PA

Although some groups recycle parts of their pavilions from previous years, many are unable to do so. All pavilion hosts must rent the land and also pay for the construction.

One prominent scientific group, quoted £ 500,000 for its pavilion, has decided – at short notice – to significantly reduce its plans.

A further two organizations said they were still waiting for delayed quotes for the cost of their pavilions. A fourth, a nonprofit group, said Orientations suggested it also pay the cost of local accommodation for the workers.

The demand for pavilions at this year’s COP is particularly high, although construction can only begin in mid-October when the opportunity space becomes accessible.

One of the most popular elements of the COP conference in recent years was the Pacific Pavilion, which regularly features music and dance from the Pacific, as well as talks and panel discussions.

In Glasgow, however, the Pacific Islands will not have their own pavilion, but a ‘space’ that can accommodate only 20 people, compared to about 100 in a normal year.

“It’s smaller, much smaller,” said Tagaloa Cooper-Halo, director of climate change resilience at the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Program. “It’s about the same cost as a much larger space in Madrid.”

Orientation declined to comment. A COP26 spokesman said the organizers were confident that all the pavilions would be ready in time. ‘There was an unprecedented demand for pavilions at COP26 and Covid’s impact on the supply of essential goods and materials increased costs.

The British government has funded a number of pavilions, including those for the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change and the Alliance of Small Island States, but said it could not support all requests.

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