By Susanna Twidale and Kate Abnett
LONDON/BRUSSELS -The world’s poorest countries have said they may struggle to meet visa requirements and cover all COVID-19 quarantine costs for the COP26 climate summit, raising concerns that some might not be able to attend in person.
The U.N. conference, meant to spur countries to make bigger commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions, is due to start in Glasgow on Oct. 31.
“We’re still concerned about the possibility of getting our delegates to COP26, to negotiate key issues about the global response to climate change that will have such a profound effect on our people,” Bhutan’s Sonam Phuntsho Wangdi, chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) group, told Reuters.
Britain said last week that government ministers travelling to COP26, plus two staff members, would be exempt from quarantine requirements when they arrive.
But other delegates from countries on Britain’s coronavirus “red list”, such as Angola, Ethiopia and Haiti, must quarantine in a hotel for up to 10 days before attending the summit.
The government has said it will cover the cost of hotel quarantines for delegates from poorer nations.
Wangdi said some countries’ delegations were not led by ministers, meaning they would need to visit a visa centre to complete their application to attend COP26.
Delegates from 25 of the poorer countries would have to leave their territories to go to visa centres in another state – a challenging process during the pandemic.
“Whether or not a minister is attending COP26 should not determine the possibility of technical negotiators and government representatives getting to Glasgow,” Wangdi said.
Asked about the LDC group’s concerns, a COP26 spokesperson said: “The participation of ministers from all nations in all parts of the world will be fundamental for achieving global agreement on climate outcomes.”
Britain has resisted calls from campaigners to delay the COP26 summit over concerns that poorer countries battling COVID-19 will struggle to attend. COP26 has already been postponed by a year because of the pandemic.
The LDC group said it was unclear if the UK would cover the cost of extended hotel stays and rearranging flights if delegates from poorer countries contract COVID-19 at the summit and need to self-isolate before travelling home.
“Without this assurance it will be difficult for delegates to accept that financial risk,” the group said.