Activists push for delay of U.N. climate summit, citing vaccine inequity, travel costs and pandemic

Activists push for delay of U.N. climate summit, citing vaccine inequity, travel costs and pandemic

A coalition of activists from around the globe on Tuesday called for the postponement of a major United Nations climate summit this fall in Scotland, saying a combination of vaccine inequity, exorbitant lodging costs and the ongoing pandemic could exclude important voices — particularly those of people from small and developing nations hit hardest by global warming.

“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 and be conspicuous by their absence,” Tasneem Essop, executive director of the Climate Action Network, a collection of hundreds of nonprofit and nongovernmental advocacy groups across 130 countries, said in a statement.

“There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the U.N. climate talks, and this is now compounded by the health crisis,” she added.

Greenpeace joined the push Tuesday to delay the global climate negotiations, saying that Britain, as the host nation, has failed to guarantee “the safe and equitable participation” of delegations from around the world, especially those battered by both covid-19 and climate-fueled disasters.

“Expecting already disadvantaged people to attend without access to vaccines, healthcare, and financial support to overcome the risks of participation, is not only unfair but prohibitive,” Juan Pablo Osornio, senior political lead for Greenpeace International, said in a statement.

Top British officials, as well as leaders in other countries, have insisted that the climate summit scheduled for Glasgow in November must move forward, given the urgent need for the world to move swiftly and cooperatively to combat climate change.

Already, the world has warmed more than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) since preindustrial times, with few signs of slowing. Six years ago in Paris, the world made a collective pact to limit warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). But global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise, and the world remains on a troubling trajectory.

Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a searing, 4,000-page report on the current state of climate science, detailing how humans have altered the environment at an “unprecedented” pace making clear that more catastrophic impacts lie ahead without rapid cuts in emissions.

On Sunday, editors of more than 200 medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet, called climate change “the greatest threat to global public health.”

As envisioned, the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, is the very definition of a mass gathering. British officials have said they expect roughly 25,000 official attendees from more than 190 countries to descend on the Scottish Event Campus in downtown Glasgow, which during the pandemic was staged as an emergency hospital and served as a coronavirus vaccination site.

The climate summit in Glasgow — already delayed a year by the pandemic — has been billed as a moment of truth, when leaders from nearly 200 countries would enshrine the bold commitments to cut carbon emissions that scientists say are essential to put the world on a less disastrous path.

But the raging pandemic has created a logistics nightmare surrounding the event, which typically draws government negotiators, researchers, elected leaders, environmental activists industry representatives and protesters from every part of the globe.

The British government has vowed that the international summit will be safe and inclusive. The country and its partners have offered to vaccinate any negotiator, official observer and accredited journalist not able to access a shot in their home nation.

Last week, a spokesperson for the government said it was “on track to support all those registered to be vaccinated ahead of the summit,” and that it plans to start administering first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month.

Still, questions remain about whether such doses will get distributed in time to delegates in dozens of nations, some where overall vaccine rates remain in the single digits. Even then, representatives from small, poorer nations face high travel and lodging costs and the prospect of quarantining upon entering Britain.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, a star at past U.N. climate gatherings, has held out the possibility that she may not attend COP26 unless it is “safe and democratic.” She told BBC Scotland last week that meant ensuring participants from poorer countries are fully vaccinated and able to travel.

British officials have said they would make an exception to allow delegates from covid “red-list” countries to enter to attend COP26. Yet, according to the latest protocols, even if fully vaccinated, those participants must still quarantine and face thousands of dollars in additional costs for five days at a government-sanctioned hotel. Those not fully vaccinated must spend twice that long in isolation.

“If COP26 goes ahead as currently planned, I fear it is only the rich countries and [nongovernmental organizations] from those countries that would be able to attend,” Mohamed Adow, director of the Nairobi-based think tank Power Shift Africa, said in a statement. “This flies in the face of the principles of the U.N. process ... A climate summit without the voices of those most affected by climate change is not fit for purpose.”

As activists and organizers alike wrestle with the thorny details of how to proceed this fall in Scotland, they face a series of unenviable and imperfect choices. But on this much they seem to agree: Time is running short to meet the central goals of the Paris agreement.

“Regardless of whether the COP goes ahead, ambitious action on climate is urgently needed,” Osornio said, adding, “The longer governments delay to honor their Paris climate commitments, the harder it will be.”

www.prensa.cancilleria.gob.ar es un sitio web oficial del Gobierno Argentino