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International first for disabled people at COP 26

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Organisations have been cooperating to ensure disabled voices are heard

Disabled people are set to be given a voice at an international climate summit in Glasgow.

Inclusion Scotland has been working in partnership with McGill University, Canada, the International Disability Alliance based in New York and other international partners to ensure that disabled people have a platform at COP 26.

As a result, and for the first time in the 30-year history of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a side-event will be held on Friday 5 November in the blue-zone at COP 26 in Glasgow that is specifically focused on disabled people and climate action.

Inclusion Scotland will be presenting its latest report, launched today (26 October), on climate change, disabled people, and climate action in Scotland. The report makes clear that disabled Scots stand to be harder hit by climate change but are often excluded or disadvantaged by actions to address it.

As Moira Tasker, chief executive of Inclusion Scotland, said: “The harms caused by climate change are very real for disabled Scots. Extreme weather, floods and heatwaves can be catastrophic for some disabled people. These are the people in our society who are already more likely to be marginalised by poverty, less likely to be evacuated safely, more prone to health risks and struggle to get insurance that protects their homes.

"Despite a growing recognition that disabled Scots may be harder hit by climate impacts, current efforts to reduce local emissions, tackle waste and reduce plastic pollution and plan for future emergencies can exclude and discriminate against disabled people. Particularly if their human rights, requirements for daily living and ideas for inclusive climate action are not listened to and understood. This needs to change, and we hope this event, and our report, will be the catalyst for that change.”

Professor Sébastien Jodoin from the Disability-Inclusive Climate Action Research Program at McGill University, who are leading on the event, outlines why it is such a significant step forward for disabled people:

“Disabled people are on the frontlines of the climate crisis - they are adversely affected both by the impacts of climate change and careless and ableist policies adopted to reduce carbon emissions. All over the world, an increasing number of disabled people are speaking out on the climate crisis and demanding ambitious and inclusive climate action from their governments. This report from Inclusion Scotland and this ground-breaking side-event is exactly the sort of advocacy that is needed to raise awareness of the disproportionate impacts of climate change for disabled people and to promote disability-inclusive climate action at every level”.

Elham Youssefian from The International Disability Alliance explained the importance of disabled people’s own organisations finally having a platform at COP 26:

“This is a historic moment for the disability movement. It is time for global leaders and climate action decision-makers to recognise that as 15% of the world's population, disabled people experience the most harm caused by climate change. For this reason, no climate action decision should be considered legitimate or efficient unless it is compliant with the rights of disabled people and in consultation with their representative organisations”.