The president of the UN climate change conference insisted Tuesday that the event scheduled for November in Glasgow “must go ahead in person,” after a network of 1,500 civil society groups called for the negotiations to be postponed.
The Climate Action Network (CAN), which includes groups from more than 130 countries, argued that the failure to provide vaccines to millions of people in poor countries, as well as the high costs of travel and accommodation, has made it impossible to ensure the COP26 talks will be “safe, inclusive and just.”
“Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and those countries suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out and be conspicuous by their absence at COP26,” said Climate Action Network Executive Director Tasneem Essop in a statement.
“There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the UN climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis,” Essop wrote. “Looking at the current timeline for COP26, it is difficult to imagine there can be fair participation from the Global South under safe conditions and it should therefore be postponed.”
CAN also expressed concern about the exclusion of delegates, journalists and civil society groups from the UK’s coronavirus red-list countries. People who have been in red-list countries within 10 days before arriving to the UK are banned from entering the country.
Some countries on the red list are among the most vulnerable to climate change, including the Maldives and Bangladesh.
COP26 President Alok Sharma, a British MP, responded on Twitter and pointed to the UK government’s steps to ensure delegates are offered vaccines, and that those from red-list countries are accommodated.
“Climate change has not taken time off, which is why #COP26 must go ahead in person in November,” he wrote on Twitter. “The UK is funding quarantine hotels for accredited delegates from red list countries. This is in addition to our vaccines offer to ensure an inclusive, accessible & covid-secure summit.”
Sharma is currently in China, where he has been discussing “goals” for the talks, he said in a separate Twitter post.
CAN said that promises by the UK of fast-track vaccines have not been met, and that many delegates have not received their first shots. Most vaccines require two shots and are typically spaced out by around least eight weeks. Talks are now just two months away.
“Repeated requests to the UK Presidency for clarity around support for logistics and quarantine costs have also not been forthcoming or been made public causing uncertainty and anxiety,” CAN’s statement reads.
The Glasgow talks are seen as crucial as scientists warn that the world needs to dramatically reduce fossil fuel emissions over the next decade to have any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Global warming of 2 degrees Celsius would result in significant global changes, including more frequent and intense extreme weather events, with some ecosystems passing critical tipping points.
If COP26 goes ahead, it would be one of the largest in-person international events held since the outbreak of Covid-19.
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