November 30, 2021 7:06 pm
As COVID cases rise, some activists fearful of climate talks

As COVID cases rise, some activists fearful of climate talks

LONDON (AP) — Climate activist Lavetanalagi Seru has been watching COVID-19 case numbers rise in the U.K. ahead of the U.N. climate conference beginning Sunday, and it scares him — even though he’s been vaccinated and is only 29.

But, the campaigner for the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network is determined travel from Fiji to Scotland in order to raise awareness about the dire situation of the island nations that are being affected by climate change.

“It is a frightening time to travel,” he said to The Associated Press. “But I’m putting my health at risk to make sure Pacific Island states are heard.”

Despite the concerns of some of the delegates from around the world, the British government decided to hold an in-person conference, arguing that world leaders must act now to prevent catastrophic global warming — and that they will be more effective if they can talk face-to-face. The original plan was to hold the meeting last year, but it was delayed due to the pandemic.

The government insists it can now be done safely — and said it had worked “tirelessly” to ensure an inclusive, accessible and safe summit in Glasgow “with a comprehensive set of COVID-mitigation measures.”

“COP26 has already been postponed by one year,” Alok Sharma, the president-designate of the conference known as COP26, said last month. “And we are all too aware climate change has not taken time off.”

But a coalition of environmental and community groups in September called for the conference to be pushed back again amid concern that many of those most affected by global warming wouldn’t be able to attend because of the continuing threat of COVID-19. These fears were exacerbated by an increase in infections in the U.K. where the average daily number of new cases has increased more than 50% from mid-September.

Campaigners also complain that organizers still haven’t done enough to ensure broad participation. For many who had to travel far distances or at great expense, the documents necessary for attending were not available in time.

It has been difficult for civil society activists in getting the visas they need. Seru is, however, still waiting for his.

The campaigners also argued that vaccines were not being distributed to delegates as promised. This highlighted wider issues of vaccine inequity, which they blame largely on rich countries, such as the U.S., Britain, and the European Union that have stockpiled vaccines for citizens.

“I am one of the many unvaccinated Africans. The thought of going to Scotland where there have been a spike in cases is frightening. This was written by Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa’s climate and energy think-tank. He wrote Sept. 14 an opinion piece for Guardian. “The frustrating thing is that it didn’t need to be this way.”

He accused rich countries of hoarding vaccines and blamed their failure to waive certain intellectual property rights on the shots that could allow more countries, particularly poorer ones, to produce COVID-19 doses.

While some nongovernmental organizations consider waivers essential and the U.S. has accepted the idea, experts are skeptical that waivers for complex shots will increase production. Many agree that richer countries have failed to fulfill their pledges to share vaccines even though they approve booster shots for their citizens . The upcoming meeting in Scotland follows an August warning from an international panel made up of climate scientists that time was running out to achieve the goal of limiting global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degree Fahrenheit) and preventing catastrophic climate change. COP26 is seen as a critical moment in the drive to persuade governments, industry and investors around the world to make ambitious commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Waiting for another year could delay action beyond the point of zero return, according to Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics. To get a deal, it is important to be in the same room.

” Despite the dangers of being together in Glasgow due to the dangerous climate change situation, it’s a good idea. “If we make mistakes on climate change, it won’t just be the negotiators that will be in trouble. It will affect all of us. It’s all of us — our children, grandchildren, and future generations. It’s that dire.”

Gurch Randhawa, a professor of diversity and public health at the University of Bedfordshire, said the conference — like any other meeting — can be held safely as long as COVID-19 security measures such as social distancing, proper ventilation and masks are employed. He said that these rules must be applied to all participants, unlike the House of Commons in Britain, where journalists and staff are required to wear masks. However, lawmakers are not required to wear masks.

The conference could be a platform for world leaders to highlight the need to keep the virus under control through safety measures, Randhawa stated.

” It’s a good idea if there are public protection measures in place. We use it to show global leadership to those who are watching,” he stated. “If we’re not going to have public protection measures in place, it’s a very bad idea because it will not only be a COVID risk to the people who were attending, but it also means that the whole global audience watching will potentially lose confidence in public protection measures that are in place around most of the world.”

Meanwhile, Seru is still hoping his long-promised visa will arrive soon. Although he has missed one expensive flight already, he is determined to get another. Although he may be late, he is determined to make it.

“For Pacific, this is an issue of life or death”, he stated. “That’s why we are fighting so hard.”

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Read more of AP’s climate coverage at http://www.apnews.com/Climate