Calls to postpone global climate summit over "vaccine apartheid"
International campaigners have called for the U.N. COP26 climate talks to be postponed due to unequal access to vaccines that makes it impossible for developing countries to be fairly represented at the Glasgow summit in November.
The postponement call comes from the Climate Action Network (CAN), a coalition of 1,500 global civil society groups.
“With just two months to go, time has run out for the UK’s vision for a ‘normal and inclusive”’ Cop26,” CAN said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is evident that a safe, inclusive and just global climate conference in early November will be impossible.”
Tasneem Essop, executive director of CAN, says the issue of participation is a microcosm of “larger patterns of global injustice and exclusion” and added: “The 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.”
Around 200 heads of state and government are expected to attend Cop26, with thousands of delegates, civil society members and media.
It has been billed as one of the most important global meetings ever – potentially a last chance to turn the tide on catastrophic, human-cause climate change.
However, activists say the talks – which were postponed last year because of the pandemic - will not be able to accommodate many from the countries which are already suffering the worst effects of the climate crisis.
The primary factor is inequality in global vaccine roll-out.
According to the World Health Organization, around 57% of people in Europe are now fully vaccinated, while in Africa the figure is around 3%.
Linked to this is the fact that many global south countries are on the UK’s travel red list, meaning travel to an in-person event will be difficult and expensive.
“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. 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,” warned Mohamed Adow, director of the Nairobi-based think tank Power Shift Africa.
The World Health Organization has condemned the rush by wealthy countries to provide Covid-19 vaccine booster shots while millions of people around the world have yet to receive a single dose.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently said it was “unconscionable” that some countries are now offering booster shots “while so many people remain unprotected”.