Global climate talks in Glasgow are not very global

One of the most anticipated rounds of international climate negotiations of this decade will take place at a United Nations summit in Glasgow over the next two weeks. But many on the front lines of the climate crisis won’t be there: islanders who might get lost in rising waters, representatives of indigenous tribes and activists who usually turn high-level negotiations into noisy events. with their manifestations.

The 26th Annual United Nations Conference of the Parties, or COP26, marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreements. The signatories, which included almost every country on Earth, agreed to limit global warming to a level that could be manageable for humanity. These countries are not close to achieving the goals they have agreed upon. In a typical year, the summit also attracts thousands of people without badges to enter the conference grounds to lobby for certain policies. But this year, when the signatories of the Paris agreement have been invited to come with increased ambitions, it will be more difficult for these activists to be heard.

They will not come mainly because of the pandemic, the uneven roll-out of vaccines and the miles of paperwork. Those who have succeeded in overcoming these obstacles have done so at enormous cost and anticipate other challenges on the ground.

“How much can you reasonably negotiate when you are exhausted and when you feel that something is unfair … And on top of that, you are afraid of catching COVID”, explains Adrián Martinez, founder and director of the NGO La Ruta Del Climate based in Costa Rica. “How will this affect a balanced and fair outcome?” “

This year, many participants from vulnerable and developing countries want money to go to places that have already suffered permanent and irreparable damage from climate change. Some populations of lowland islands, such as Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea, for example, have already started to abandon their homes. The battle to recognize the loss and damage ensued from Paris, and now the defenders continue this fight with one arm tied behind their back.

One-third of the small Pacific island nations and territories, which are considered among the most vulnerable to sea level rise plaguing the lowlands, will not send any government officials to negotiate on their behalf, The Guardian reported Last week. Instead, countries will exploit people from their missions in Europe or the United States.

During the Paris negotiations, these countries fought to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees, rather than 2 degrees less ambitious than other countries preferred. This difference of half a degree means 40,000 fewer people the whole world will see its lands swallowed up by the rising waters by 2150. In Paris, the small island nations are winning a sort of half-victory. The language of the deal ended up committing countries to keeping global average temperatures “well below 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels.”

Organizers of the event in the UK said they would provide vaccines to delegates who needed them, but only started offering the first doses around about two months before the summit, which kicks off on October 31. That didn’t leave much time to receive two-dose vaccines or make travel plans in line with UK COVID restrictions. The UK has forced visitors from ‘red list’ countries to self-quarantine in a hotel for up to 10 days upon arrival, a huge additional cost for many traveling to the conference – up to $ 3,600 per person, according to Martinez.

Last minute changes – which were usually beyond the control of attendees – made attendees pay higher bills. Martinez and his colleagues booked an Airbnb near the summit six months in advance. But a few weeks before the conference, the host doubled the price. They rushed to find another place to stay and settled in Edinburgh, over an hour’s drive from Glasgow.

Even with defined travel plans, participants are anxious. “It will be the first time that I will set foot outside my home. COVID has devastated our country very seriously. I have suffered personal losses, ”says Tasneem Essop, executive director of the international Climate Action Network, who lives in South Africa. “For me it’s a bit traumatic, you know, the idea of ​​going and traveling to Glasgow and being a part of this big event. But I’m going.

All of these additional stressors ultimately undermine the energy of advocacy and summit negotiations, which often take place around the clock. “All of this disruption has, for sure, reduced many delegations from the South,” said Martinez. That means fewer subject matter experts to tackle certain priorities, Martinez said, and delegates might not be able to take breaks when conversing and exiting long negotiations. This creates an uneven playing field, he says, as richer countries will likely have the resources to immunize and fund larger delegations – which he says could give them more clout during the talks.

The Climate Action Network and Greenpeace actually pushed the organizers of COP26 last month to delay the summit. But after already postponing negotiations for a year because of the pandemic, summit organizers have not budged.

A coalition of environmental groups, called the COP26 Coalition, this year launched a program to help potential attendees get their visas and qualify to attend the summit. He had over 150 files open. Of these, two-thirds of the people they were looking to help ultimately decided not to attend. This is probably only a small fraction of all who ended up falling through the cracks, according to Rachael Osgood, the coalition’s senior immigration and international logistics coordinator.

“It’s the structural silence of thousands of people. And these thousands of people are speaking on behalf of the worst affected regions of the world, ”said Osgood. “They represent millions. And for all those who are on the front lines of this crisis, who have little or no representation, it is a death sentence. “

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