UN Climate Change will cover the extra accommodation costs of developing country delegates who test positive for Covid-19 during the Cop26 climate talks and need to self-isolate.
Cop26 president designate Alok Sharma announced the latest solidarity measures in a speech in Paris on Tuesday, setting out his priorities and expectations for Cop26.
“It will be an extraordinary Cop in extraordinary times. But collectively, we must pull together to make it work,” Sharma said.
The fund, he said, will be available to accredited party delegates, civil society observers and journalists from developing countries. Participants who contract Covid-19 will be required to isolate for 10 full days in their accommodation, which could extend their stay in Glasgow.
The isolation rules have been laid out in a Covid-19 code of conduct, which all participants are requested to sign and agree to respect in order to attend the summit.
A Cop26 spokesperson told Climate Home News the code of conduct will apply to all participants, including ministers, who are exempt from quarantine requirements when entering the UK.
Cop26 organisers are expecting up to 25,000 people to attend the conference while 120 heads of state have confirmed they will participate in a two-day leaders’ summit on 1-2 November.
The UK has among the highest levels of reported Covid infection in the world, averaging 55 daily cases for every 100,000 people.
For all the efforts to Covid-proof the event, Robert West, professor of behavioural science and health at University College London, told Climate Home that it is “highly likely that there will be some transmission among delegates and that this will spread to the local population”.
The UK host strongly recommends all participants get vaccinated but it is not mandatory and some people are relying on jabs that have not been approved by the World Health Organization.
Under the code of conduct, all Cop26 participants need to wear a face covering unless they are eating, drinking, sitting in an office or meeting space or negotiating and ensure one meter of physical distancing.
They will be asked to self-administer a Covid-19 lateral flow test every day in their accommodation before travelling to the Scottish Event Campus, where the conference is taking place. A negative result will be required to enter the conference center.
Anyone who reports Covid-19 symptoms or tests positive will need to isolate immediately and undertake a PCR test to confirm the result.
A positive PCR test will require delegates to isolate for 10 full days and prevent them from using public transport. The UK government said it will find suitable accommodation for those who need it.
Diplomats who have travelled to Glasgow but are unable to access negotiations in-person because they are isolating or due to limited room capacity as a result of social distancing, will be able to follow discussions online.
Breaching the rules could lead to a suspension of the summit and possible criminal prosecution.
Lia Nicholson, a climate advisor for the Alliance of the Small Island States, told Climate Home that concerns over contracting Covid-19 were outweighed by the urgency of stepping up climate action.
She said Aosis was “impressed” with the UK’s “above and beyond” response to the challenges of holding an in-person Cop.
“We cannot afford these decisions to be delayed another year. And we expect that parties will of rise to the challenge. We don’t want to be putting ourselves and our communities at risk, and then come away with nothing,” she said.
Nicholson added that delegations will need to show flexibility if some of their negotiators become sick and are out of action for part of the talks – a possibility which she said required greater preparation of the entire delegation on critical issues.
The announcement of the self-isolation fund brought relief among campaigners which face prohibitively expensive costs to attend the summit.
Adrian Martinez, of the Costa-Rican based organisation La Ruta del Clima, told Climate Home that the risk of contracting Covid-19 at the conference was “a great worry”.
He and his team have been able to purchase health insurance to cover medical attention in a UK hospital but the policy doesn’t cover the cost of extending their stay beyond the end of the conference, which they cannot afford.
The urgency justifies the risk, Martinez said. “If climate change did not involve our survival and the ability of our communities to exist, we would pick another Cop to attend,” he said.
The number of people who will be required to quarantine upon arrival in the UK, a cost which the government said it will pay, has been dramatically reduced.
Only seven Latin American countries remain on the UK red list after it was updated on Monday.
Alejandro Aleman, Latin America coordinator for the Climate Action Network, told Climate Home that the repeated changes to the rules and the cost of health insurance was preventing campaigners on the continent from attending the conference.
“The general feeling is that action is being taken to prevent participation from civil society in Latin America,” he said. CAN Latin America’s participation at Cop26 will be reduced by two thirds compared with previous years, he estimated.