Vaccine inequality, quarantine rules and expensive accommodation mean people from developing countries will be “locked out” of the event, it has been claimed
International environment groups have called for the Cop26 conference to be postponed – as the impact pf the Covid pandemic will exclude participants from the global south.
Campaigners say that vaccine inequality, quarantine rules and expensive accommodation mean that people from developing countries will effectively be “locked out” of the event, which is due to take place in Glasgow in November.
The postponement call comes from the Climate Action Network (CAN), a coalition of 1,500 global civil society groups.
Its members include Action Aid, Oxfam, Greenpeace, Christian Aid, Amnesty International and WWF.
Around 200 heads of state and government are expected to attend Cop26, with thousands of delegates, civil society members and media.
It has been billed as one of the most important global meetings ever – potentially a last chance to turn the tide on catastrophic, human-cause climate change.
However, activists say the talks – which were postponed last year because of the pandemic - will not be able to accommodate many from the countries which are already suffering the worst effects of the climate crisis.
The primary factor is inequality in global vaccine roll-out.
According to the World Health Organisation, around 57% of people in Europe are now fully vaccinated, while in Africa the figure is around 3%.
Linked to this is the fact that many global south countries are on the UK’s travel red list, meaning travel to an in-person event will be difficult and expensive.
In a statement issued today (7 September), CAN said: “With just two months to go, time has run out for the UK’s vision for a ‘normal and inclusive”’ UNFCCC Cop26. It is evident that a safe, inclusive and just global climate conference in early November will be impossible given the failure to support the access to vaccines to millions of people in poor countries, the rising costs of travel and accommodation, including for quarantine in and outside of the UK and the uncertainty in the course of the Covid19 pandemic.
“An in-person Cop in early November would de facto exclude many government delegates, civil society campaigners and journalists, particularly from Global South countries, many of which are on the UK’s Covid-19 ‘red list’.
“This exclusion poses serious and long-lasting implications for issues that will be under deliberation at this Cop and that are extremely important to developing countries such as climate finance; loss and damage; and carbon market rules, among others. The full and meaningful representation of those on the frontlines of the climate emergency is critical to produce a credible political outcome from Cop26. We do not believe this is possible under the current circumstances.”
Tasneem Essop, executive director of CAN, said it is vital that the talks go ahead – but only when they can be made properly inclusive. And that means stepping up efforts to get more of the world vaccinated.
She said that the issue of participation is a microcosm of “larger patterns of global injustice and exclusion” and added: “The climate talks are important but against the current context of vaccine apartheid they simply cannot proceed by locking out the voices of those who especially need to be heard at this time.”
The UK government says it will fund quarantine hotel stays for delegates, observers and media arriving from red list countries.
Ministers said that vaccines are being made available for any delegate who needs one.
Cop26 President-Designate Alok Sharma said: "We are working tirelessly with all our partners, including the Scottish Government and the UN, to ensure an inclusive, accessible and safe summit in Glasgow with a comprehensive set of Covid mitigation measures.”