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Why some activists want to postpone this year’s big climate summit

This is one of the most tragic ironies of climate change: the poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America that have produced the least greenhouse gases in the atmosphere face the most serious threats. more severe drought, extreme heat and chaotic storms in a modified climate. .

Now, those same nations are struggling to stockpile enough coronavirus vaccines to inoculate their populations against COVID-19 and its growing list of infectious variants. Many fear they will not be able to attend the world’s most important climate summit, further piling the bridge for countries that have gotten rich by burning coal and oil.

Nearly 1,600 international nonprofits call on the United Nations to postpone the 26th November Conference of the Parties, or COP26, until early next year, when more of the world’s population will be fully immunized against deadly disease.

The Climate Action Network, an alliance of more than 1,500 civil society groups from 130 countries, warned last week that vaccination and quarantine requirements for attending the in-person summit in Glasgow, Scotland, “would de facto rule out Many delegates, activists and journalists from outside the rich world.

“There has always been an inherent imbalance of power within UN climate talks, between rich and poor nations, and this is now exacerbated by the health crisis,” said the executive director of the Climate Action Network , Tasneem Essop, in a press release. “Looking at the current calendar of COP26, it is difficult to imagine that there can be an equitable participation of the countries of the South under safe conditions and it should therefore be postponed. ”

The Climate, Land, Ambition and Rights Alliance, or CLARA, echoed the demand, noting that the last-minute negotiations that ultimately secured the Paris Agreement at the conference of 2015 were based on face-to-face meeting sessions that would be impossible to replicate by videoconference.


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A man repairs his makeshift barrier to protect his home before the next high tide arrives in Bargny, Senegal, September 3, 2020.

“COP26 would only be legitimate if it was participatory, inclusive and secure, with equal conditions of participation for civil society in all countries. A virtual option or a hybrid alternative is hardly inclusive, ”said Patricia de Almeida Zuppi, senior advisor to the Brazilian conservation group Rede de Cooperação Amazônica, which is one of CLARA’s 40 or so organizations. “A fair and safe solution presupposes the postponement of COP26. “

The UK government, which is hosting this year’s conference, rejected the calls but pledged to cover the cost of the five-day quarantines it mandated for all attendees from its “red list” of rate countries. high infection.

Vaccine help that never came

But even before the latest pledge of financial aid, delegates from poor countries were already struggling to access the aid offered by the UK government.

In June, the UK pledged to provide vaccines to all registered conference participants who had not yet received one.

In August, the UK took a further step by creating a “red list” of dozens of countries whose citizens are expected to quarantine for at least five days in a hotel upon arrival in the country for the conference.

However, in early September, “most activists in developing countries” had “heard nothing about how to get bitten,” according to Chloe Farand of Climate Home News, who has widely covered the issue. Citing interviews with delegates and activists from Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, Pakistan, Argentina and Nicaragua, she said: and how they would receive the jabs.

Aimé Mbuyi Kalombo, who is expected to lead the Democratic Republic of Congo’s climate team in Glasgow, told Farand that the mandatory quarantine would prevent “a number of people from the delegation” who are focusing on critical climate finance issues from come unless Great Britain covers the cost of the stay.

Last week, Alok Sharma, the UK Cabinet official in charge of COP26, said the world could not afford to delay the conference any further, which had already been postponed from last year as the pandemic raged and vaccines were not yet available.

A health worker walks through the yard during a COVID-19 vaccination campaign on May 5 in Goma, Democratic Republic of C


Guerchom Ndebo via Getty Images

A health worker crosses the yard during a COVID-19 vaccination campaign on May 5 in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the country with the lowest vaccination rate in the world.

“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 package of COVID mitigation measures,” he said in a press release. “This includes an offer from the UK government to fund required quarantine hotel stays for registered delegates arriving from Red List areas and to vaccinate accredited delegates who would otherwise not be able to get vaccinated.”

‘It’s not a bug, it’s a feature’

Yet some say that by making it more difficult for developing countries to participate in climate talks, the UK is giving itself an advantage.

One of the priorities of the negotiators is to agree on the rules for the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the last major element of the settlement of the global compact which was not completed during the 2018 meeting. The little-known and highly technical provision of the global pact to reduce carbon emissions would set up financial markets for the trading of carbon credits.

COP26 President Alok Sharma leaves after a weekly Cabinet meeting in London on Tuesday. He said the British government h


Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

COP26 President Alok Sharma leaves after a weekly Cabinet meeting in London on Tuesday. He said the UK government had offered to pay for quarantined hotel stays for registered delegates arriving from “red list” areas and to vaccinate delegates “who otherwise could not get vaccinated.”

“This is absolutely the UK’s No.1 priority in the negotiations, bringing Article 6 to fruition and in doing so securing a future in carbon trading for the City of London and the companies associated with it. Said Peter Riggs, director of the non-profit Pivot Point and coordinator of CLARA, referring to the name of the banking and financial sector in the British capital. “Was this a deliberate strategy? I do not think so. But countries that have criticized the UK, EU and US stance on carbon trading are all on the red list. “

The divisions, he said, go hand in hand with the division on whether to waive patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines so that manufacturers can produce many generic versions for distribution in poorer countries. . Again, the wealthiest countries in Europe and North America prioritized profiting pharmaceutical companies from vaccines rather than increasing the immediate supply of vaccines.

“We have people in our network who are completely outraged by the continuing problem of vaccine apartheid,” Riggs said. “They understand the COP through the prism of inequitable participation. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. ”

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