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Shared future

Opinion

April 14, 2021

COP26 is the most important climate summit since the landmark Paris Agreement was agreed at COP21 in 2015. Numerous components of the Paris Agreement have a 2020 deadline.

The COP26 talks will be the first opportunity since the Paris Agreement for nations to come together to review commitments and strengthen ambitions to keep the world on track for meeting the Agreement’s aspirational targets of limiting global temperature rise to ‘well below’ 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

The Paris Agreement also contains a clause ‘requesting’ nations to submit enhancements or upgrades in the form of nationally determined contributions (NDCs). The Agreement calls for the delivery of NDCs, long-term decarbonisation plans to 2050, and financial support worth $100bn per year to countries considered most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. These three measures are due ‘by 2020’ and not ‘by COP26’. The postponement last year and another possible delay does not mean therefore that the deadline should also move.

COP26 will also be the first summit since the US re-joined the international climate agreement after President Trump left the Paris Agreement. The pandemic has also shifted many governments’ priorities to focus on ‘building back better’ as countries look to rebuild their economies after the pandemic with climate change as a key concern.

The ‘vaccine nationalism’ that we see now reflects the reality of the climate negotiations. Countries in the climate talks understandably promote and protect their interests in any negotiation. Those with more power can get more, rich and powerful nations can expedite what needs doing or block and delay actions if they are against their interests.

We can also see similarities in what is called ‘vaccine apartheid’ and climate apartheid. While the UK, the US, wealthier countries in Europe and other rich nations in the negotiations are way ahead in vaccinating their populations, many developing countries are still waiting to access Covid-19 vaccines. In February, the UN called the vaccine inequality “wildly uneven and unfair” when just 10 countries had administered 75% of all Covid-19 vaccines while 130 nations hadn’t received a single dose. According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, rich nations are vaccinating one person every second while the majority of the poorest nations are yet to give a single dose.

Another similarity is in the way countries act in response to both Covid-19 and the climate crisis. Wealthier countries have bought up many more doses than needed by their populations. The UK, for example, could vaccinate people here many times over while those in developing countries will need to wait because we bought up the supplies in advance and there’s nothing left for them.

Excerpted: ‘Vaccine Apartheid: A Threat to an Inclusive COP26’

Commondreams.org