As a Kenyan from a farming community that has experienced the ravages of the climate crisis, no one is keener to see a successful climate summit held in Glasgow than me. But this year, due to restrictions placed by the pandemic on those attending from the global south, I fear Cop26 will not be a success. It is because of this that it must be postponed until next spring.
The UK government is aware of the issues facing those wishing to attend the conference in person, which is why it has offered vaccines to delegates unable to receive them in their home countries and to pay for their hotel quarantine. However, obstacles still remain. The vaccine rollout has been slow, and for those receiving the AstraZeneca jab, the deadline for receiving both doses within eight to 12 weeks of the conference starting has passed.
As one of the millions of unvaccinated Africans, the thought of travelling to Scotland, where cases recently spiked, is a scary one. The frustrating thing is that it didn’t need to be this way. The reason why only 1.4% of people in the global south have been vaccinated is because the G7 failed to waive patents on vaccines and rich countries have hoarded available shots.
Limited travel options and the need for time spent away from work and home in quarantine also mean that some people may find it difficult to attend. It makes much more sense to reschedule the summit for early next year when full vaccinations can be provided, quarantine lifted and more travel routes may be available.
The UK government seems desperate not to delay the meeting for another year, after it cancelled it in 2020. It will no doubt use the excuse that the climate emergency is so urgent and Cop26 must not be delayed. I’ve attended 11 Cop meetings so I am aware of their importance, but delaying the Cop three months doesn’t mean delayed climate action.
Countries can still update the climate plans that make up their part of the Paris agreement and need to be improved every five years. They can continue to announce new emissions reductions and deliver vital climate finance to poor countries to support transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
The UK government could use these months to accelerate the transition to net zero. Or it could reverse its recent bizarre decision to grant a permit to drill for oil in the controversial Cambo oilfield in the North Sea.
What we don’t need is a climate summit without the voices of those suffering the most from the climate crisis. Heaping yet further injustice on these countries is not the action of a responsible Cop26 host. Alok Sharma, the president of Cop26, has the choice between ensuring a good Cop or a bad Cop. If he pushes through a bad Cop the rest of the world will not thank him for it.
Mohamed Adow is the director of the climate and energy thinktank Power Shift Africa