Most studies coming out on climate change emphasize the need for immediate action. But now, almost 1,600 nonprofits want to postpone the COP26 climate summit until next year. The reason? Unequal access to the COVID-19 vaccine, which could prevent delegates from less developed countries from participating.
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More than 200 countries are part of the annual U.N. climate talk, officially known as Conference of the Parties. The group’s first meeting was in 1994. COP26 is scheduled to meet in Glasgow this November. If it’s not postponed, this will be its 26th meeting, since COVID-19 prevented the event last year.
Last week, the Climate Action Network announced its worries that lack of vaccines coupled with quarantine restrictions would exclude many delegates, journalists and activists from participating in COP26. “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,” Tasneem Essop, Climate Action Network executive director, said in a statement. Climate Action Network includes 1,500 plus groups from more than 130 countries. “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.”
Others say we can’t afford to wait. John Kerry, the U.S. envoy for climate, called COP26 “pivotal” in addressing climate change and emphasized that time is running out. “After our absence for four years, my friends, we approach this challenge with humility,” he said, as reported by Reuters. “But let me be clear, we approach it with ambition.”
In June, U.K. officials promised to supply vaccines to all registered COP26 participants who couldn’t otherwise access one. In August, the U.K. created a so-called “red list” of countries whose delegates would be required to quarantine in a hotel room for at least five days once arriving in-country. But as of September, delegates in Kenya, Pakistan, Nicaragua and other countries were still waiting to hear about the promised vaccine. And some people have started to suspect that the U.K. would prefer not to have the poorer countries attend COP26. One of the issues delegates will hash out is a technical provision about setting up financial markets that would trade carbon credits. Some people claim that the richer countries are trying once again to keep their financial advantage.
Lead image via John Englart