NGOs call for COP26 to be postponed

9th September 2021


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Chris Seekings

The UK government must postpone the COP26 climate talks in November as delegates from poorer countries are set to be excluded due to COVID-19, a network of over 1,300 NGOs has said.

In a statement published this week, the Climate Action Network (CAN) explains how vaccine inequity, unaffordable accommodation, travel challenges and new surges in COVID-19 will lock out many developing nations from the talks, despite these being the most threatened by climate change.

This exclusion poses “serious and long-lasting implications” for issues that will be under deliberation at the summit and are important to poorer countries, such as climate finance, loss and damage, and carbon market rules.

The NGOs argue that "the full and meaningful representation of those on the frontlines of the climate emergency is critical to produce a credible political outcome", and say that a safe, inclusive, just, and in-person summit in early November is now “impossible”.

“Those countries suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out of the talks and be conspicuous by their absence at COP26,” said Tasneem Essop, CAN executive director.

“There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the UN climate talks, between rich and poor nations, and this is now compounded by the health crisis. This issue of participation at COP26 is a microcosm of the larger patterns of global injustice and exclusion that we see playing out.

“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 has advocated for vaccine equity and a TRIPS waiver on COVID-19 vaccines since the start of this year, and called out the UK for failing to support a patent waiver at the G7 summit back in June.

Today, 57% of Europe is fully vaccinated, while just about 3% of Africa is.

Although the UK government has announced that delegates will be vaccinated this week, civil society campaigners and journalists from poorer countries on the UK’s COVID-19 ‘red list’ still risk missing out on the summit.

CAN said that the UK has been too slow in delivering vaccines to delegates in vulnerable countries, and that repeated requests for clarity around support for logistics and quarantine costs have also not been forthcoming or made public.

However, COP26 president Alok Sharma said that the summit must go ahead in November, and that the government is working hard to ensure an inclusive, accessible and safe COP with a comprehensive set of COVID-19 mitigation measures.

“This includes an offer from the UK government to fund the required quarantine hotel stays for registered delegates arriving from red list areas and to vaccinate accredited delegates who would be unable otherwise to get vaccinated.

“COP26 has already been postponed by one year, and we are all too aware climate change has not taken time off. The recent IPCC report underlines why COP26 must go ahead this November to allow world leaders to come together and set out decisive commitments to tackle climate change.”

Image credit: Shutterstock


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