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The Mass Media

COP26: What to know, and why the pushback from climate groups

Photo courtesy of Tom Evans via Wikimedia Commons.
Portrait of Boris Johnson.

There is just over a month left before the COP26 U.N. Climate Change Conference takes place in Glasgow. However, there has been pushback from environmental groups who want the conference postponed due to concerns over COVID-19 safety, vaccine inequality and the expense of quarantine accommodations as all of these factors could prevent some delegates from attending the summit.

What is the COP26 climate conference?

COP26 is a conference of different countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Due to the pandemic, COP25, the last conference, was held in 2019 in Madrid, Spain.

Many issues surrounding climate change during COP25 were left unresolved. However, the nations involved agreed to cut carbon emissions and to present a plan to cut carbon emissions by COP26.

What will be seen at COP26?

Global leaders will be reporting their country’s progress since the Paris Climate Agreement. There will also be discussions about new decisions surrounding the ways countries should cut their carbon emissions.

Why is there pushback about the conference?

According to Euronews: “Environmental Groups are calling for COP26 to be postponed over concerns that the summit will not be safe, equitable and inclusive. They argue that vaccine inequality and expensive quarantine hotels will prevent ‘huge numbers’ of delegates from the Global South from being able to attend.”

Climate groups, such as the Climate Action Network, raised concerns about vaccination rates, especially in Africa.

“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 the executive director of Climate Action Network, Tasneem Essop.

The Climate Action Network also pointed to statistics provided by the World Health Organization, reporting that “around 57 percent of people in Europe are now fully vaccinated, while in Africa the figure is around three percent.”

Greenpeace is another group that has called for the COP26 postponement.

According to Euronews, “The organisation says that expecting already disadvantaged people to attend without access to vaccines, healthcare or financial support is ‘not only unfair but prohibitive.’”

The U.K.’s government has promised to make vaccines available to delegates from the Global South.

COP26 President, Designate Alok Sharma, said: “We are working tirelessly with all our partners, including the Scottish Government and the UN, to ensure an inclusive, accessible and safe summit in Glasgow with a comprehensive set of Covid mitigation measures. This includes an offer from the U.K. government to fund the required quarantine hotel stays for registered delegates arriving from red list areas and to vaccinate accredited delegates who would be unable otherwise to get vaccinated.”

What about the U.S.? What’s going on here before COP26?

President Joe Biden announced goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions up to 52 percent by 2030. The U.S. and China have been in talks, as the two countries are the leading emitters of greenhouse gases.

China has set a goal of switching 20 percent of the country’s energy to renewables by 2025 and by 2060, to become neutral.

John Kerry is the U.S.’s climate envoy who has been in talks with members of the Chinese government to try and create some collaboration between the two countries ahead of COP26.

According to Euronews: “Kerry has called for stronger efforts to curb rising temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. He urged China to join the U.S. in urgently cutting carbon emission.”

While many countries are gearing up for the COP26 conference in November, youth activists are beginning to gather again to protest climate change and to demand that global leaders take action in the fight against climate change, with a protest that was held globally on Sept. 24 by the Fridays for Future movement.

The Fridays for Future Massachusetts chapter held a protest in the Boston Public Garden on Friday, Sept. 24, just as other protests were held all across the globe. Protests come as global leaders gathered in New York to talk about what they have to do to tackle environmental problems.

About the Contributor
Genevieve Santilli, News Writer