Time has run out for the UK’s vision of a “normal and inclusive” UNFCCC COP26 Summit, let alone “the most inclusive COP ever”. Current plans, and lack thereof, make it impossible for civil society organisations and governments from the Global South to be equitably and safely represented, thereby exacerbating existing inequalities in the process.
With less than 2 months before the UN Climate Summit, the UK Presidency has failed to address mounting concerns that participants from Global South, marginalised and indigenous populations are being excluded from COP26. From access to Covid vaccines, to the rising costs of travel, accommodation and a failure to address the many obstacles to equal access, the Climate Summit will inevitably exclude many from the Global South at a time when their voices need to be heard more than ever. The COP26 Coalition joins international civil society to call on the UK Government and the UNFCCC Bureau to postpone the UN climate conference until they can ensure a genuinely inclusive and safe Summit
More than 60 countries (almost a third of parties to the UNFCCC) on the UK Government’s COVID-19 travel red list, all of which are lower income countries, face footing bills for 5-10 days quarantine, as well as extortionate hotel accommodation and travel for the two week summit. Delegates are yet to see any details of a long promised support package.
Last week, the WHO called out the “shocking disparity” of vaccine access, with WHO Secretary-General saying “the vaccine crisis illustrates the fundamental weakness at the root of the pandemic: the lack of global solidarity and sharing.” The UK has vaccinated 90% of its adult population. In some Global South countries, that figure is 1.4%, due to high income countries buying up the majority of vaccines and blocking patent waivers.
The UK Government and other rich countries are still blocking the vaccine patent waiver, which has contributed to what is de facto vaccine apartheid. The UK Government’s promised scheme to distribute vaccines to global South COP26 delegates would only partially mitigate this, and two months out from the summit not a single dose has yet been delivered.
Global South delegates face significant barriers to participation in UN climate negotiations at the best of times. In the current context, both government party and civil society organisations in the global South will struggle to participate in COP26 on anything like the usual terms, let alone this being ‘the most inclusive COP ever’ as the UK Government has claimed. It is not responsible to hold an in-person international conference in the wider public health context.
Whilst the richest will be able to attend the COP, many poorer governments and civil society groups risk being excluded, threatening the very legitimacy of the Climate Summit itself.
The UK Presidency has not only failed to live up to its own promise of ‘the most inclusive COP ever’ as it continues to block access to life saving Covid treatments, creating a vaccine apartheid between the richest and poorest. It has also failed to address the mounting concerns about the costs of travel, accommodation and left many doubting that they can safely be at the table as critical decisions are made.
Locking out the voices of those most impacted by climate chaos not only replicates the same underlying patterns of global injustice that are the root causes of climate inaction, it undermines the ability of civil society to hold governments to account and deliver the outcomes needed.
The UK climate justice movement stands in solidarity with our colleagues in the global South who will be excluded and will be mobilising in our thousands to amplify their voices and demands.
Delaying the UN summit is no excuse for inaction on the climate. As the clock ticks on this crucial decade, rich countries must commit to doing their fair share of climate action, cutting emissions to zero and paying their carbon debt to the global South. This is the bare minimum needed to pave the way for a successful COP26, yet the COP Presidency is far from showing such leadership, instead poised to greenlight a new North Sea oil field, and blocking access to vaccines in the global South. From climate to Covid the UK has shown it is willing to sacrifice those worst off to shore up huge profits for the few.