Climate Action Network calls for postponement of formal COP26 negotiations due to lack of plans to ensure safe and inclusive participation

7 September 2021

With just two months to go, time has run out for the UK’s vision for a ‘normal and inclusive’ UN climate talks- COP26.

It is evident that a safe, inclusive and just global climate conference in early November will be impossible given the failure to support Covid19 vaccine access to millions of people in poor countries, the rising costs of travel and accommodation, including for quarantine in and outside the UK, and the uncertainty in the course of the Covid19 pandemic.

An in-person COP in early November would de facto exclude many government delegates, civil society campaigners and journalists, particularly from Global South countries, many of which are on the UK’s current Covid19 ‘red list’. 

This exclusion poses serious and long-lasting implications for issues that will be under deliberation at this COP and that are extremely important to developing countries, such as climate finance, loss and damage and carbon market rules, among others.
The full and meaningful representation of those on the frontlines of the climate emergency, and with the least resources to cope, is critical to produce a credible political outcome from COP26.
We do not believe this is possible under the current circumstances. 

Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and those countries suffering from the artificial shortage of vaccines will be left out of the talks and will be conspicuous by their absence at  COP26. There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the UN climate talks, between rich nations and poorer nations, and this is now compounded by the health crisis. 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,” said Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network.

“This issue of participation at COP26 is a microcosm of the larger patterns of global injustice and exclusion that we see playing out. CAN has advocated for vaccine equity and a TRIPS waiver on Covid19 vaccines since the start of this year and called out the UK for failing to support a patent waiver at the G7 Summit back in June.
Today, according to the WHO, 57% of Europe is fully vaccinated while just about 3% of Africa is. Our fight for climate justice and our efforts to hold those in power accountable cannot be delinked from the root causes that continue to perpetuate such inequality and injustice. The UN climate talks are important but against the current context of vaccine apartheid they simply cannot proceed by locking out the voices of those who especially need to be heard at this time,” added Essop.

While the UK Presidency promised to fast-track vaccines to COP26 delegates in need of them (a gesture with its own moral implications of queue-jumping by prioritising conference delegates over frontline workers in those countries) those who applied for this option are yet to receive their first jabs. We note that the UK COP Presidency has now announced that delegates will be vaccinated this week.
Repeated requests to the UK Presidency for clarity around support for logistics and quarantine costs have  not been forthcoming. 

In May, CAN set out guidelines and principles that must inform participation in global climate talks. The health and safety of participants and the local population must remain the highest priority with no compromise on the health measures advocated by the World Health Organization. 

It must be noted that purely logistical solutions aimed only at COP26 participants are insufficient and fail to address the broader structural issues that prevent vaccines from reaching the global majority.
In order to make any in-person meeting at the scale of a COP safe and inclusive, rich country governments must take urgent steps to ensure free vaccines can reach every country. This includes support for a comprehensive, swift and lasting TRIPS waiver under the WTO rules on Covid19 medicines and vaccines and technology transfer to enable vaccine manufacturing in the Global South.

This call to postpone COP26 does not in any way imply a postponement of urgent climate action or a boycott of the climate talks. As accredited observers to the UNFCCC climate negotiations, CAN has been a key player in every COP since 1995, advocating for the strongest response from governments to the climate emergency.

We continue our work to push political leaders to deliver ambitious national climate targets, fulfil their responsibilities on climate finance, phase out fossil fuels and address the needs of the most vulnerable on loss and damage.
Escalating climate impacts all over the world and the most recent IPCC reports are a reminder that consistent, urgent and transformative action to avert the worst of the climate crisis is needed everyday, day after day. 

To drive collective urgent climate action, a truly inclusive and safe COP is paramount. We need to ensure that the spirit and the values enshrined in the Paris Agreement is upheld, especially where Parties agreed to the following:

Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.” 

We continue to hold those in power accountable to this.

PRESS RELEASE: ‘COP26 must be postponed’ – Climate Action Network (also available in French and Spanish).

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