The first days of COP26 marked by chaos and indignation
The first four opening days of the United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow (COP26) were marked by inclement weather, travel disruptions, large crowds, Covid-19 restrictions and long queues outside the conference center – which sparked criticism on the conference organizers.
As more than 25,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries gather for two weeks in total, large queues have accumulated at the entrance to the venue – raising fears of a potential spike in Covid-19 cases.
Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf admitted earlier this week that the summit’s’ scale and global draw ” poses a risk of the spread of Covid-19 both within delegates and to or from the local population of Scotland and the UK ”.
But a spokesperson for COP26 told EUobserver on Wednesday (November 3) that the UK presidency was working with the UN “to minimize queues as much as possible”.
“The safety and security of everyone at COP26 is of the utmost importance,” added the official, stressing that there are measures to mitigate Covid-19, such as ventilation and hygiene measures, masks, daily testing and social distancing.
Entering the summit took so long on Monday morning that members of the Maldives, Nepal and Russia delegations missed their meetings, BBC reporter Mishal Husain tweeted.
Participants received an email from the organizers apologizing for the inconvenience caused while trying to enter the venue, citing “unprecedented logistical circumstances”.
On Wednesday, however, they were asked to follow the negotiations online as much as possible and attend events in person only when necessary “in order to comply with Covid-19 measures.”
Delegates from the poorest countries struggled to attend the event due to unequal access to vaccines, quarantine rules and high travel costs – which prompted civil society to demand the postponement of the event earlier this year, citing uneven attendance.
The UK has from the start rejected the idea of postponing the event and instead proposed measures to ensure the participation of developing countries, such as funding hotel stays for delegates arriving from countries of the red list.
Nonetheless, campaigners criticized the UK government for failing to organize the ‘most inclusive COP ever’ – a pledge made earlier this year by COP26 President Alok Sharma, a UK Conservative MP.
One of the biggest concerns raised in the early days in Glasgow was restricted access to negotiating areas for environmental and development organizations.
Sébastien Duyck, senior lawyer at the Center for International Environmental Law, said there was “outrage” and “disappointment” among observers as many had traveled to Glasgow despite the economic cost and costs. health risks of being involved in negations on the ground.
“We need the voices of those directly affected by climate change to inform the negotiation and provide a public scrutiny,” he said, adding that “Covid-related restrictions cannot justify the fact that the our entire network can not access negotiations “.
The UK Presidency had a total of 24 months to prepare for the event, after being delayed for a year due to the pandemic.
Only four representatives of environmental and development NGOs had access to the negotiations, said Duyck, arguing that these early days marked “the least inclusive start of a COP in over a decade”.
“Dystopian Hellish Landscape”
Alexandria Villaseñor, a young activist from the United States, called the conference a “dystopian hellish landscape”.
“An environment of exclusion, racist, empowered, classist directly informs the decision-making process placed there,” she told her thousands of Twitter followers.
Over the weekend, train disruptions and road closures also made it difficult for delegates to travel from London to Scotland.
But critics have focused on reports accusing world leaders of hypocrisy – after traveling to and from Glasglow in private jets, which are considered 20 times more polluting than commercial flight.
According to the BBC, there have been 182 such flights to Glasgow, Prestwick and Edinburgh airports since October 27, nearly double the number from the previous week.
And that figure excludes some national charters, like the Air Force One plane of US President Joe Biden.
After the leaders’ meeting on 1 and 2 November, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to travel from Glasgow to London by “air taxi” due to “time constraints”. According to Downing Street, the aircraft uses a special blend of “sustainable” aviation fuel.
Likewise, the plane of the European Commission delegation in Glasgow is “powered by biofuels”, a spokesperson told EUobserver, while declining to confirm whether or not it was a private jet. .
The European Council and Parliament did not respond to questions on the use of air taxis to get to COP26.