Missing Leaders, Eyewatering Hotel Rates and a Resurgent Pandemic Could Derail the Most Important Climate Summit in Years

The stakes at COP26, the U.N. climate summit that begins Nov. 1 in Glasgow, couldn’t be higher. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has called the summit the world’s “last best hope”Avoid the worst effects of climate change. Over two weeks, some 20,000 delegates representing 195 countries will try to resolve significant differences on how the world should cut its greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim to “keep 1.5°C alive.” That is, to meet the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5°C over the preindustrial era by 2050, after which point climate change will likely reach catastrophic proportions .
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However, the prospects for a bright future seem dim.Among politicians and campaigners with a week still to go before delegates step foot inside Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus. There are increasing political hurdles to the conference’s success. Numerous world leaders from major emitters have declined to attend. Participation in the event is difficult for developing countries due to high costs. The UK.’s COVID-19 transmission rates are near an all-time high.There are also doubts about the preparation for summit. According to The GuardianA group of major COP26 sponsor wrote recently to organizers, condemning the event. “mismanaged” and “very last minute,” blaming “very inexperienced” civil servants for the problems.

Already, officials are lowering expectations about the COP26 result. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told the AP that “there will be a gap” between countries’ emissions commitments at the summit and the reductions needed to reach the Paris agreement’s goals. British prime minister Boris Johnson, normally an enthusiastic booster, conceded this week that negotiations will be “extremely tough.” Last month he said that there is only a “six in 10 chance” that rich countries will fulfill their promises on climate aid.

“It’s been definitely more challenging from the outset than any other COP,” says Yamide Dagnet, climate negotiations director at the World Resources Institute and a former E.U. COP negotiator. “Securing the outcome is going to be the most challenging of any COP [in over a decade].”

COP26 Climate Change Summit Venue
Ian Forsyth—Bloomberg/Getty ImagesA precinct located in Glasgow, U.K. on Wednesday Oct. 20, 2021, is lined with banners advertising the upcoming COP26 Climate Talks.

This is the record-breaking COP

Climate advocates say developing countries, many of which are being hit hardest by climate change, are finding it unusually hard to attend this year’s COP because of pandemic travel restrictions and extraordinarily high costs in Glasgow. The “defacto exclusion” of poorer delegates prompted the Climate Action Network (CAN) , which represents around 1,500 climate civil society organizations globally, to Solicit a postponement of COP26 last month.

Critics argue that the U.K. is not able to control the spiralling cost of the summit. These have caused smaller countries as well as non-governmental organizations, including the World Resources Institute (NGOs), to cut back on their presence at conference. It has made it difficult for them represent their interests.

In January, local media reported on the fact that rental apartments and hotels had raised their November prices by around 5%. The norm is 500%The following is the information: As of Oct. 22, the cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Glasgow for the duration of the conference was around £6,000, according to advertisements on, and no hotel rooms were available. Host events in the COP26 venue are also more expensive than usual.Previous summits were canceled due in large part to supply and labor shortages related Brexit and pandemic. ATo Financial Times one scientific organisation was quoted nearly £500,000 for the cost of building and running its pavilion.

A former negotiator for developing countries, she says Glasgow is her most expensive COP. She has attended over 20 previous conferences.

Many COP participants say the high costs stem in part from the U.K.’s decision to host COP26—likely to be the most attended COP since the 2015 summit in Paris— in Glasgow, rather than in a larger city like London. Glasgow is home to only about 11,000Hotel beds are around 80% cheaper than the average hotel bed. 156,000Paris 59,000Madrid is the location of COP25 2019 in 2019.

The COVID-19 travel restrictions threaten the participation of countries most at risk from climate change. One third of Pacific Island countries are at riskHave saidThey will not be able to send delegates because of the lengthy quarantines that must be complied with to get back home. This would make it impossible for senior officials to take part in the proceedings.

It has offered to vacinate every delegate free of charge, and made efforts to facilitate the sending of delegates from developing countries. After pressure in September, the government drastically cut down its travel “red list” which requires arrivals from some nations to quarantine for 10 days in hotels, and agreed to pay for COP26 attendees’ hotel quarantines.

But Tasneem Essop, executive director of CAN, says that only one of the 11 people who applied to the U.K.’s vaccination program via her organization received a vaccine through the program.

The limited number of vulnerable country representation at COP26 will have a direct impact on negotiators’ ambition on emissions reductions, and on the attention given to issues like aid to help poorer countries adapt to climate change and recover from climate disasters, Essop says. “Rich nations are in a far more advantageous position given that they will have massive delegations coming in. The imbalance of voices will make it harder for the needs of vulnerable countries of poor developing countries to be heard.”

Pedro Ugarte—AFP/Getty ImagesActivists dressed as debt collectors” hold cutouts of the leaders of Italy, U.K., the U.S., Australia and Canada during a demonstration in front of the International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington D.C. to ask rich nations to keep their commitment to support developing countries to tackle climate change on October 13, 2021.

Ground conditions are challenging

Conditions will be extremely difficult for those delegates who can travel to Glasgow. Glasgow rail workers and rubbish collectors announced they would strike as a result of disputes about pay. Bus drivers also consider striking during the summit. The U.K.’s COVID-19 transmission rate has surged in recent weeks to one of the highest in the world, endangering unvaccinated delegates and heightening the risk of an outbreak that disrupts the summit.

“I think the outside world may struggle to comprehend the level of effort that negotiators put in to be mobilized for up to 12 or 20 hours, not even not sleeping much [towards the end of the summit] to reach a breakthrough,” says Dagnet. “Wearing masks during all that time is going to be really difficult. And because this is really two COPs in one, the sheer volume of issues on the table, they won’t get any breathing space between meetings.”

Concerns over the organization raised by sponsors—and the need for COVID screenings for the 20,000 participants—have stoked fears among observers that Glasgow could be a repeat of the 2009 Copenhagen COP, when “disastrous” organization led to delegates You could wait for hours in the queueOutside in snow and freezing temperatures. Summit ended in Failure marked

These logistical problems may seem trivial, but former negotiators say that the smooth running of the summit can be crucial to negotiators’ success. “It’s a well-established historical fact that smoothly running COP logistics support positive outcomes in the negotiations,” says a member of the team that organized Morocco’s 2016 Presidency of COP22, who wished to remain anonymous to speak freely. “If afflicted by logistical challenges, negotiators may be less inclined to reach agreement.”

The political landscape is challenging

Dagnet notes that after negotiators have cleared all logistical hurdles, they now face one the most complex political situations for climate cooperation since years. There are still high geopolitical tensions among the leaders of Western countries and big emitters like Russia or China. The globalization of the world Energy crisis Advocates for fossil fuels have been offered A new opportunity to plant doubts Over the speed of energy transition

The trust level between the Global North-Global South is at an all-time low after theStolen global COVID-19 vaccine suppliesBy wealthy countries in 2021. A lack of climate finance has exacerbated the anger at rich countries failing to honor a commitment made over a decade ago to fund $100 billion each year for poorer nations by 2020. That is why the following: Dagnet believes that countries in developing nations may not be as willing to accept compromises to reach consensus. “If solidarity between countries is undermined by lack of trust, that’s going to degrade the prospect of a breakthrough even further.”

Expectations for the summit have also been marred by the news that the leaders of many of the major emitters who have shown the most hesitancy for climate action— including Brazil, Mexico, Russia and Japan—are likely to skip COP26. China’s president Xi Jinping, who has stepped up his country’s climate efforts in recent years, setting a net zero goal for 2060 and promising to end overseas coal funding, has confirmed he will not attend. Some experts believe he will reserve any future climate announcements for Chinese conferences rather than share them at an event supported by the West.

The absence of Xi or Russia’s Vladimir Putin is not particularly surprising, and some previously hesitant heads of government—including Australia’s Scott Morrison and India’s Narendra Modi—have pledged to come in recent days. But COP26’s patchy guest list still suggests that the more enthusiastic global cooperation many had hoped to see after two years of increasingly visible climate impacts is not materializing.

Essop from CAN believes that the importance of having world leaders in attendance is not as important as the commitment shown behind closed doors by their negotiators and the quality of their targets. “It’s going to take a lot of heavy lifting there to rebuild trust, to set us on course,” she says. “In the end, the test for all of this is, what are we actually delivering for those who are suffering the most? And that we will only know in the course of the COP itself.”


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