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Civil society groups say COP26 should be postponed over Covid

Photo from Climate Action Network International website
Photo from Climate Action Network International website

Marseille, FRANCE - A global network of more than 1,500 climate NGOs called on Britain to postpone the upcoming COP26 climate summit, saying in a statement on Tuesday that a lack of Covid-19 vaccines risked sidelining developing countries.

Rising cases, unequal global vaccine rollout and stringent quarantine requirements for some 60 "red list" nations and territories hoping to attend the 12-day UN climate talks mean that "a safe, inclusive and just global climate conference is impossible," the Climate Action Network (CAN) said.

"Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out," said Tasneem Essop, CAN's Executive Director.

"There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the UN climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis." Host government Britain said a recently released UN climate science report shows "why COP26 must go ahead this November to allow world leaders to come together and set out decisive commitments to tackle climate change".

In a response issued to AFP, COP President Alok Sharma said the conference -- originally slated for November last year -- has already been postponed once.

"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." Britain has said it would cover accommodation costs for delegates, subject to the quarantines, and had offered to provide fast-track vaccines.

But delegates who have applied for them have yet to get their jabs, according to the NGO group.

Currently, more than 55 percent of Europeans are fully vaccinated, compared to about three percent in Africa.

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Civil society campaigners, who play a crucial watchdog role as registered observers, will also likely face restricted access, CAN warned.

Developing countries will be deeply affected by decisions taken at the COP on issues ranging from climate finance, international carbon markets, and how to help poor nations cope with severe climate damages already incurred.

"A climate summit without the voices of those most affected by climate change is not fit for purpose," said Mohamed Adow, a longtime observer of the talks and director of the Nairobi-based think tank Power Shift Africa.

"If COP26 goes ahead as currently planned, I fear it is only the rich countries and NGOs from those countries that would be able to attend," added.

"This flies in the face of the principles of the UN process and opens the door for a rich nations stitch-up of the talks." - AFP

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