COP26: Global delegates to Glasgow summit could require Covid vaccination to attend
Alok Sharma the UK Government’s president-designate of COP26, said Covid security measures, including compulsory vaccines, were being explored and would be announced at a later date.
Mr Sharma, who gave a speech at Whitelee Windfarm outside Glasgow on Friday to mark six months until the two-week event, said the aim of the summit would be to end the world’s reliance on coal.
However the Scottish Greens dismissed his remarks on coal as “nothing more than hot air.”
The UN conference, which was postponed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, is expected to attract governmental leaders from around the world to Scotland in November, raising concerns about the potential import of coronavirus and any new strains.
Taking questions from reporters after his speech, Mr Sharma said: “I have always been very clear that COP26 should be the most inclusive COP ever.
“I’ve been travelling around the world, talking to governments, and what is clear is people want to see a physical COP. It’s particularly important for developing countries who want to sit at the same table with the big emitters [of pollution] as part of these negotiations.”
He added: “We have to remember this is a summit like no other. It’s not just a bunch of speeches being given, this is 197 parties coming together for a negotiation.
"When you have a negotiation, there will be times people want to break off and have discussions on the side, and that’s why people want a physical event.
"We have to make sure it’s safe not just for delegates, but the people of Glasgow, and we are working with our delivery partners and health authorities to ensure we’re looking at all Covid-19 secure measures.
"Part of that is of course vaccines, but that is the thinking we’re doing right now and when we have more details we will spell that out.
"But the key issue for me is we want to ensure it happens physically, in November in Glasgow, and as inclusively as possible.”
Mr Sharma said the climate summit was the “world’s best chance of building a cleaner, greener future” and that all attendees would be “striving” to make sure the conference is “the moment that every country and every part of society embraces their responsibility to protect our planet”.
The UK Government, he said, was already working with countries to make a “consistent and concerted effort” in limiting global warming to 1.5C, enabling communities and natural habitats to adapt to the impacts of climate change and mobilising climate finance to deliver action.
“This is our last hope of keeping 1.5C alive, our best chance of building a brighter future. A future of green jobs and cleaner air. I have faith that world leaders will rise to the occasion and not be found wanting in their tryst with destiny.
“In six months’ time, when we are packing up and going home, we will be able to say that at this critical juncture, each of us took responsibility. That we chose to act. And that we kept 1.5C alive.”
He added: “If we are serious about 1.5C, Glasgow must be the COP that consigns coal to history … we are working directly with governments, and through international organisations to end international coal financing – this is a personal priority – and to urge countries to abandon coal power, with the G7 leading the way.
"The days of coal providing the cheapest form of power are in the past. And in the past they must remain.
"The coal business is, as the UN Secretary General has said, going up in smoke. It’s old technology.
"So let’s make COP26 the moment we leave it in the past where it belongs, while supporting workers and communities to make the transition, creating good green jobs to fill the gap.”
Mr Sharma said the UK had already reduced its reliance on electricity generation from coal from 40 per cent in 2012 to less than 2 per cent today.
“This shows that change is possible,” he said. “The UK was the first country to pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035. We will completely phase out coal power by 2024 and will end the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.
“Going green and boosting prosperity are not mutually exclusive. Over the last 30 years British governments have grown our economy by 78 per cent while cutting emissions by 44 per cent.”
However Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell said that while Mr Sharma was correct that COP26 is an “enormous opportunity for the world to step up efforts to tackle the climate emergency” he said the UK government needed to “get it’s own house in order before lecturing others.”
He added: “Coal is already in rapid decline and very low hanging fruit when it comes to climate policy – it drove down emissions in Scotland a decade ago, but we need to be looking beyond that now.
“Climate emissions are going up, not down, and that isn’t because of coal. The UK and Scottish governments have plenty of targets but no delivery when it comes to tackling rising traffic emissions and setting an end date for oil and gas extraction.
“If you want to pick the planet, you need to pick where you invest public funds, and Alok Sharma’s government is not investing in the alternatives. Without putting his money where his mouth his, today’s speech is nothing more than hot air.”
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