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Vax inequity, travel challenges may lock out delegates from UN climate: Activists

The conference is set to take place in early November in Glasgow under the presidency of the UK.

IANS | New Delhi |

The Climate Action Network (CAN), a global network of more than 1,500 civil society organisations in over 130 countries working together to fight the climate emergency, on Tuesday called for the UN climate talks — COP26 — to be postponed in view of the Covid challenges.

The conference is set to take place in early November in Glasgow under the presidency of the UK.

With just two months to go, it is evident that a safe, inclusive and just global climate conference is impossible given the failure to allow vaccines to reach millions of people in poor countries, the rising costs of international travel and accommodation, and the uncertainty in the course of the Covid-19 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’, the CAN said in a statement.

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, including on 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 producing a credible political outcome from COP26.

“Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and the countries suffering from the artificial shortage created around vaccines will be conspicuous in COP26 by their absence,” said CAN Executive Director Tasneem Essop.

“There has always been an inherent power imbalance between rich and poor nations within the UN climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis. Looking at the current timeline for COP26 and the logistical challenges, it is difficult to imagine fair participation from the Global South under safe conditions and it should therefore be postponed.”

While the UK COP26 Presidency promised to fast-track vaccines to delegates in need of them in time for the meeting in Glasgow (a gesture with its own moral implications of queue-jumping by prioritising conference delegates over frontline workers), those who applied for this are yet to receive their first jabs as of today.

Repeated requests to the UK presidency for clarity around support for logistics and quarantine costs have also not been made public leading to this decision by the network.

“The UK has been too slow in delivering its vaccines support to delegates in vulnerable countries and their quarantine requirements come with some eye-watering hotel costs. Some delegates are finding they cannot transit because some of the major travel hubs are closed and the alternative travel costs are beyond the reach of some poorer governments and smaller civil society organisations.”

“This flies in the face of the principles of the UN process and opens the door for rich nations to stitch up the talks. A climate summit without the voices of those most affected by climate change is not fit for purpose,” said Mohamed Adow, long time observer of the talks and Director of the Nairobi-based think tank Power Shift Africa.

Rebuilding the essential multilateral trust required for a successful COP26 also means supporting the TRIPS waiver for a People’s Vaccine, delivering on commitments for climate finance for the most vulnerable countries, and kicking fossil fuels out of politics once and for all, said Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International.