(CNSNews.com) – The global climate megaconference known as COP26 must go ahead as planned later this year because of the “scientifically-established urgency” in fighting climate change, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday in response to calls from non-governmental groups for a postponement due to COVID-19-related inclusive participation concerns.
Scrambling to respond to the concerns raised by a coalition of more than 1,500 environmental NGOs, the British government which is hosting the event announced that it will pay for quarantine stays required of all visitors from countries on its coronavirus travel “red” list.
The government had announced earlier that it will offer COVID-19 vaccinations to delegates unable to have had them in their home countries.
“Climate change has not taken time off, which is why COP26 must go ahead in person in November,” said Alok Sharma, the government minister responsible for the Nov. 1-12 gathering in Glasgow, Scotland.
“The U.K. is funding quarantine hotels for accredited delegates from red list countries,” he said. “This is in addition to our vaccines offer to ensure an inclusive, accessible and COVID-secure summit.”
COP26 – the 26th “conference of the parties” to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change – has already been delayed by a year due to the pandemic.
Under British government rules, visitors from countries on its “red” list – 62 countries as of Wednesday – must quarantine at a managed hotel facility for ten days, with COVID-19 tests on day two and day eight, at a cost of 2,285 pounds ($3,145) per person.
The NGO coalition said delegates from many developing countries would be effectively locked out, due to travel difficulties, the cost of quarantine, and lack of access to vaccines.
“Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and those countries suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out of the talks and conspicuous in their absence at COP26,” said Climate Action Network executive director Tasneem Essop.
The coalition called for a postponement until an inclusive and safe COP26 can be assured.
“We understand and respect the concerns expressed by various groups,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told a briefing in New York.
“However, the global scientific community has made clear that climate change is now a global emergency and only an urgent and major step up in climate action can keep the goals of the Paris agreement within reach, and protect the most vulnerable countries and communities from worsening climate impacts.”
“In light of this scientifically-established urgency, further delay or second postponement of COP26 is no longer feasible,” Haq added, noting the offers of vaccinations and paid quarantine cost.
President Biden has made climate a priority, reversing his predecessor’s move to withdraw from the Paris climate accord within hours of taking office last January.
The 2015 agreement has as its goal preventing average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, by achieving “net-zero” greenhouse gases emissions by the second half of the century.
In 2018, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said it would now be necessary to limit that temperature rise to just 1.5 degrees.
And in a new report released last month, the IPCC declared that “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land,” and that rising global surface temperatures were “already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.”
The report authors said that under all emission scenarios, temperatures are now on track to reach the 1.5 degree rise above pre-industrial levels by 2040.
“The science has been certain for decades, but the latest report makes it abundantly clear – the climate crisis is not only here, it is growing increasingly severe,” U.S. presidential climate envoy John Kerry said in response to the report.
“Climate change is transforming our planet in unprecedented ways, with far-reaching effects that we are already seeing – making heatwaves, extreme rainfall, fire weather, and droughts more frequent and severe,” he said. “These extreme events will only become more drastic in the future – this is why we cannot wait. Now is the time for action and Glasgow must be a turning point in this crisis.”
Kerry has been traveling busily, most recently to China, Japan and South Korea, for talks in the run-up to COP26.