UK visa rules and a lack of access to Covid-19 vaccines has stopped some delegates from the front line of climate change attending the COP26 talks, campaigners said today.
The COP26 Coalition of grassroots climate groups described COP26 as “the most exclusionary in history”.
It said thousands had been blocked from making their voices heard.
“It is happening at a crucial moment in history, as we live through a period of multiple breaking points from climate to covid to racism. We know that these crises not only overlap, but share the same cause.
“We have a unique opportunity to rewire our system as we recover from the pandemic. This COP is the moment to show whether we will intensify these crises to the point of no return – or lay the foundations for a just world where everyone’s needs are met.”
Speaking at a climate justice rally this afternoon, Asad Rehman, of the COP26 Coalition and War on Want, said it was critical that voices from the global south had a voice at the talks.
But they had been excluded by what he described as a “vaccine apartheid”. Less than one per cent of people in some countries had been vaccinated because of a lack of access to the vaccine, he said.
Lidy Nacpil, from the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development, appeared by video link from the Philippines because she said she had been unable to get a visa under UK immigration rules.
Camille Barbagallo, of the COP26 Coalition, said:
“We need to call out the UK government for the appalling way in which they have organised COP26, as those who most need their voices heard in climate negations have not been able to enter the UK due to hostile border restrictions. This is a shameful way to organise a conference. “
Kenyan climate activist Kevin Mtai, another speaker at the rally, said some African countries faced a double crisis of climate change and Covid 19. He said:
“I am here from Kenya to fight for my country and bring the voices of my community to the negotiations, as many of them cannot speak for themselves – many are already having to migrate due to the impacts of the climate crisis. We are here to pressure our leaders after so many COPs which have resulted in false promises.”
At a news conference this afternoon, Dorothy Guerrero, of Global Justice Now, said the refusal to give more manufacturers, particularly in developing countries, access to produce the vaccine had stopped some people attending COP26
“It is not a crime coming from a developing country or a poor country.
“You’re already saddled by the fact that your country was affected already for many decades, and you are the least responsible for this climate change.
“And yet you could not come here and raise your voice in this important meeting simply because you don’t have access to the vaccine and hence you can’t attend the COP.”
Nathan Thanki, of Demand Climate Justice, told the news conference that the exclusion of many people from the global south was a “far cry from the presidency’s stated goal of having the most inclusive Cop ever”.
“When the people are coming from the front lines of the climate crisis… when they are not able to be in room, raise their voices and make their demands, when they have to jump through millions of hoops just to be here and then be tokenised of course you get rhetoric without action.”
DrillOrDrop’s reporting from COP26 has been made possible by individual donations from readers
Updated 1/11/21 with more photos and details