Climate News

COP26 Restrictions Limit Global South Participation

The United Kingdom is moving ahead with the next U.N. climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow after a year of delays due to the ongoing pandemic. 

Between 20,000 and 25,000 country delegates, media representatives, and members of civil society organizations are expected to attend this year’s conference from October 31 to November 12.

UK quarantine rules, vaccination requirements, and the high price of hotels and Airbnb rentals have made the trek a difficult one for those looking to attend the conference with limited resources. 

These new challenges threaten to further distort representation at the COP. NGOs from the Global South have been historically underrepresented at previous conferences.  For example, at COP21 in Paris, NGOs from the Global South only accounted for 25 percent of the total representation. 

What’s more, COP26 marks the fourth consecutive climate conference in Europe, with the previous three taking place in Germany, Poland, and Spain. 

Red-Listed Nations Must Quarantine

The UK has agreed to relax some of its COVID-related quarantine rules. Countries are given a green, amber, or red designation depending on the severity of the outbreak in their particular nation. 

Vaccinated delegates from green- and amber-listed countries will not be required to quarantine. Restrictions for delegates coming from red-listed countries have been somewhat eased ahead of COP26. Vaccinated delegates from the red-list will be required to quarantine for at least five days upon arrival if they are fully vaccinated, while unvaccinated delegates will be required to quarantine for a full 10 days. 

There are currently 57 countries on the UK’s red list. These countries are primarily from the Global South, where vaccines have yet to reach much of the population.  Most Latin American nations are currently on the red list, including Costa Rica. 

The current cost of staying in a quarantine facility in the UK is £2,285 ($3,164) per person for a 10-day stay. This is an impossibly large sum for many representatives from the Global South. According to Bloomberg, the UK government is weighing whether it can pay these expenses themselves, especially when it comes to delegates from developing nations.

Unequal Vaccination Distribution

Representatives from the Global South are also facing the additional hurdle of meeting the UK’s vaccine recommendations. The UK “strongly recommends” all participants arrive fully vaccinated.

Vaccines have been easily accessible in much of the Global North for months as rich nations continue to hoard them, while this has not been the case for most of the world.

The UK has offered vaccines for unvaccinated attendees to ensure that as many attendees as possible are fully vaccinated.  The deadline for registering for a vaccine from the host country closed on July 29.

Sky-High Prices 

The cost of the conference has been very high for delegates looking to attend. Rooms at the official hotel portal for COP26 were going for up to £888 a night, pricing out those hoping to have easy access to the negotiations.  

Those who have sought cheaper alternatives have run into difficulties. Our own Airbnb reservation, which was made several months ago, was canceled after the owner mentioned that he needed to raise the price 50 percent, claiming he “grossly undercharged for what is the biggest conference in the world on climate change.”  Others have had similar experiences.

At La Ruta, we believe participation in the climate governance process is a right that should be shared by all. The current arrangements, as they stand, put Global South representation at risk. 

Correction: An earlier version of the article stated that all Central and South American nations are on the red list. Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua are currently on the Amber list.

Categories: Climate News

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