UK allays fears of campaigners seeking postponement of climate summit
Alok Gupta

An influential climate alliance has demanded postponement of the UN Global Climate Change Summit (COP 26) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure "safe, inclusive and just" negotiations.

Climate Action Network (CAN), an umbrella organization of 1,500 civil society groups spread over 130 countries, said a considerable number of developing countries are reeling under vaccine shortages and struggling to contain the transmission of COVID-19.

Under such circumstances, government officials, delegates, activists and campaigners from these countries may find it difficult to attend the summit, said CAN on Tuesday.

"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 of the talks and conspicuous in their absence at COP 26," said Tasneem Essop, CAN's executive director.

Climate and vaccine equity

In partnership with Italy, the UK will host COP 26 – already delayed by over a year – in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12. 

But the host country has placed more than 50 countries on the COVID-19 red list, requiring travelers from these countries to undergo a self-paid 10-day quarantine at a government-specified hotel. 

The low-income countries face one of the worst impacts of climate crisis despite having low emissions levels. Now, they struggle to procure COVID-19 vaccines, said CAN.  

The organization said the ongoing pandemic and access to vaccines have further deepened the injustice faced by these nations. The organization had demanded vaccine equity and protested the UK's failure to support a patent waiver for the vaccine at the G7 Summit in June.

While 57 percent of the European population is fully vaccinated, the African continent has only been able to vaccinate only three percent of its people, said Essop. "Our fight for climate justice and our efforts to hold those in power accountable cannot be delinked from the root causes that continue to perpetuate such inequality and injustice." 

'COP 26 must go ahead'

With barely two months left for the climate negotiations to kick off, the UK government issued a statement in response to the demand to postpone the annual summit. 

"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," said Alok Sharma, president-designate of COP 26 on Tuesday.  

Sharma also assured campaigners that the government will also provide support for quarantine hotel stays for those attendees arriving from red list countries for the summit. The host will also vaccinate accredited delegates, he said.  

"The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report underlines why COP 26 must go ahead this November to allow world leaders to come together and set out decisive commitments to tackle climate change," Sharma said.

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