The UK government has opened the application process for Cop26 participants to apply for Covid-19 vaccines before attending the UN climate summit in November.
The UN Climate Change online registration portal to attend the conference in Glasgow, UK, was opened early to allow negotiators, observers and journalists that would otherwise not be able to get vaccinated in time for the summit to apply for a jab.
All prospective participants to the conference are being asked to respond to the offer “as soon as possible” and by 23 July to give enough time for the vaccination programme to be rolled out.
The UK government said it “strongly recommended” that all participants to Cop26 are fully vaccinated to attend the talks but vaccination is not mandatory. A decision has not yet been made on which WHO-approved vaccine will be offered and participants won’t be given a choice.
The vaccines will be provided by the UK government and administered by the UN in the participants’ home country. The logistics of the vaccination roll-out are due to be announced in the coming weeks.
Earlier this month, the UK Cop26 host announced it will help delegates to the climate conference access Covid-19 vaccines as part of a package of support to developing countries.
Vaccine aid has become a critical pillar of the UK’s diplomatic effort ahead of Cop26, as developing countries warn that the stark discrepancy between rich and poor nations’ access to vaccines threatens the success of the Glasgow summit.
Cop26 president-designate Alok Sharma said: “Success at Glasgow requires representatives from every part of the world physically sitting around the same table.
“I encourage delegates who need one to take up our offer of a Covid vaccine. This will be part of wider measures put in place to ensure a safe, in-person Cop this November for delegates and the local community.”
The UK government acknowledged concerns the scheme could amount to climate negotiators “jumping the queue” and receiving a jab before vulnerable people and frontline workers in their home country.
“Tackling the climate emergency cannot wait,” It said in a post answering frequently asked questions on the Cop26 website. “It is important that different levels of vaccine supplies around the world do not impede attendance at the Cop.”
UN Climate Change said the early opening of registration for the conference was independent from decisions being made on the precise format of the meeting in November. More details on the logistical arrangements will be communicated in the coming weeks.
While the vaccine offer overcomes one major obstacle to attendance, concerns remain that travel restrictions such as quarantine requirements and border closures could make participation difficult for some.
Brianna Craft, senior researcher on climate change at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), told Climate Home News the vaccine offer was “very welcome”.
“But if the government is serious about hosting the most inclusive climate talks ever, there remain many logistical issues to solve to allow representatives of the Least Developed Countries, who are facing the most serious consequences of climate change, to attend,” she said.