Cop26: World’s most vulnerable still waiting on UK to meet vaccine promise, campaigners say

‘This is probably the last opportunity we have to keep warming at 1.5C’, an activist in Costa Rica tells The Independent

Related video: What is Cop26?

Developing world representatives due to attend the Cop26 climate summit are still waiting on the UK government to meet its promise of providing vaccines, campaigners have warned.

The climate talks, widely seen as crucial to hopes of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, will take place in Glasgow in just two months’ time.

Activists have long raised concerns that the uneven rollout of vaccines around the world may prevent developing countries from being able to take part in the talks. In April, the young climate activist Greta Thunberg called for the event to be postponed to ensure that all countries could take part.

In response, the UK government in June announced that it would provide vaccines to all attendees unable to access them through other means.

But the UK has so far not administered any vaccines to those hoping to attend the conference, say campaigners from the Cop26 Coalition, a UK-based coalition of campaign groups.

“Millions in poorer countries are already drowning, starving, thirsty and on the run for safety due to this crisis,” said campaigner Rachael Osgood.

“If these people are not at the Cop26 table in November, how can any decisions made at that table be in their interest?”

Adrian Martinez is the director of Costa Rican NGO La Ruta Del Clima (The Climate Route).

“Many of our colleagues are awaiting the vaccines that were promised,” he told The Independent.

“This is probably the last opportunity that we have in the global south to be part of an effort to keep the planet at 1.5C, so for us it’s very important to be there.”

He added that the uncertainty over the vaccines offer means that many of his colleagues have put off booking flights and accommodation, as prices for staying in Glasgow continue to skyrocket.

“In our case, our reservation got cancelled,” he said. “We had an Airbnb and the owner wanted to double the price so we had to find somewhere else to stay.”

Attendees from many developing world countries are also facing high quarantine costs, he added.

A climate activist from Bangladesh, a country recently affected by flooding, said vulnerable countries were being ‘completely ignored'

Earlier this month, the UK government announced that attendees from red list countries will need to quarantine for five days on arriving in the country. Most countries on the red list are in the global south.

Maria Alejandra Aguilar, a lawyer and member of the Climate Justice division of Ambiente y Sociedad in Colombia, said there were still too many barriers for people wanting to attend Cop26 from developing countries.

“While the UK government has announced over and over that this year’s conference will be the most inclusive in history, much is still to be done to achieve this goal,” she said.

“The reality is that barriers remain for the effective and meaningful participation of observers and civil society, especially from the global south.”

Yusuf Baluc, a Fridays for Future campaigner from Pakistan, added: “Blocking entry of those who are unvaccinated while failing to deliver on promises to vaccinate those who can’t access the vaccine in their home countries shows that MAPA (most affected peoples and areas) are being completely ignored.

“At Cop26, the people who are suffering from racism, colonialism and the climate crisis right now have been left behind.”

A UK government Cop26 spokesperson said it was “working tirelessly” with the UN to “get vaccines to those that need them in time for the summit”.

Attendees eligible for a vaccine should expect to receive an invite to an appointment shortly, the spokesperson added.

While the UK “strongly recommends” that all delegates arrive fully vaccinated, it is not mandatory for those attending the conference to have received one or both jabs.

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