Zimbabwe: Calls for COP26 Postponement Grow Louder

Children use a boat in the flooded Kakola Ombaka village on May 12, 2021 (file photo).
7 September 2021

A local public interest organization advocating for climate justice has joined the calls for the postponement of United Nations climate talks - COP26 conference which is set to take place early November in Scotland.

Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust (GGZT) director Frank Mpahlo said the current debate around postponement is valid as the Global South which bears a threefold disproportionate impact from climate change induced disasters participation should be guaranteed.

Mphalo said any climate action which further disenfranchises the most affected and vulnerable populations we vident that a safe, inclusive and just global climate conference is impossible given the failure to allow vaccines to reach millions of people in poor countries.

"We have seen the effects of climate change at close quarters in Chimanimani, where even three years down the line people are still struggling to sustain livelihoods as they are still living in makeshift tents.

"So conversations around climate justice will be disingenuous without representation of the most affected populations. Conversations also need to focus on climate action financing particularly to support localized adaptation models for countries in Africa," said Mhpahlo.

A global network of more than 1500 civil society organisations in over 130 countries working together to fight the climate emergency, Climate Action Network (CAN) is leading the global calls for postponement.

In a press statement released by CAN executive director, Tasneem Essop, said the full and meaningful representation of those on the frontlines of the climate emergency is critical to produce a credible political outcome from COP26.

CAN said this exclusion poses serious and long-lasting implications for issues that will be under deliberation at this COP and that are extremely important to developing countries, including on climate finance, loss and damage and carbon market rules, among others.

"Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and the countries suffering from the artificial shortage created around vaccines will be conspicuous in COP26 - by their absence.

"There has always been an inherent power imbalance between rich and poor nations within the UN climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis. Looking at the current timeline for COP26 and the logistical challenges, it is difficult to imagine fair participation from the Global South under safe conditions and it should therefore be postponed," said Essop.

"The climate talks are important, but against the current context of 'vaccine apartheid' they simply cannot proceed by locking out the voices of those who especially need to be heard at this time," added Essop.

An in-person COP in early November would de facto exclude many government delegates, civil society campaigners and journalists, particularly from Global South, many of which are on the UK's Covid19 'red list'.

In response to concerns raised, the UK COP26 presidency promised to fast-track vaccines to delegates Mohamed Adow, long time observer of the talks and Director of the Nairobi-based think tank Power Shift Africa has also expressed concerns over travel, logistics and vaccination access for Global South delegates.

"If COP26 goes ahead as currently planned, I fear it is only the rich countries and NGOs from those countries that would be able to attend.

"This flies in the face of the principles of the UN process and opens the door for a rich nations stitch-up of the talks. A climate summit without the voices of those most affected by climate change is not fit for purpose," said Adow.

CAN is an accredited observer to the UN climate negotiations and has been a key player in every COP since 1995, advocating for the strongest response from governments to the climate emergency.

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