By Valérie Volcovici and Kate Abnett
(Reuters) – Nigerian climate activist Goodness Dickson believed that being invited to attend the United Nations climate summit in Scotland meant he would have no difficulty attending.
But the high cost of hotels, COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine rules have left Dickson and other activists in developing countries concerned that their voices will not be heard at the COP26 conference in Glasgow from October 31 to November. 12.
Reuters spoke to activists in countries including Bangladesh, Pakistan and Uganda. Some had obtained funds, visas and vaccines to attend the summit, but others gave up.
Dickson is still aiming to make it to COP26, where he hopes to tell delegates in person that he’s trying to learn in school when temperatures hit 43C. He believes developed countries need to hear the personal experiences of those most vulnerable to climate change.
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“I’m still looking for funding,” said the 28-year-old, who represents Nigerian NGO Eco Clean Active and estimates his trip would cost more than $ 4,000, including accommodation and quarantine.
“I am afraid that the COP is not represented by the African continent.”
UK hosts of the summit offered financial aid and vaccines to delegates who would not otherwise be able to access.
“We are working tirelessly with all our partners, including the Scottish Government and the UN, to ensure an inclusive, accessible and safe summit in Glasgow with a comprehensive package of COVID mitigation measures,” a spokesperson said of COP26, adding that this hotel approved by the government provider MCI had offered delegates a range of accommodation at reasonable prices.
The UK this month removed quarantine requirements for 47 countries, including South Africa and India, sparing delegates the cost of 2,285 pounds ($ 3,150) of a hotel quarantine of 10 days.
Last month, he said he would cover quarantine costs for delegates from countries still on the UK’s COVID-19 travel “red list” – currently seven states, including Colombia and Venezuela.
But some potential delegates say they haven’t been able to access the aid, or that it isn’t going far enough. Others say their own governments should do more to ensure they can participate.
“The visas and quarantines have been a nightmare,” said Filipino activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan of the youth movement Fridays for Future. The youth movement is sending around 55 delegates from regions vulnerable to climate change to COP26, but Tan said others gave up before the UK revised its quarantine rules.
The UK government expects around 25,000 people to attend COP26, but has yet to release a list of delegates.
On Tuesday, prices for the few hotel rooms still available for the full 12-day conference on Booking.com started at £ 291 per night, for a total of £ 3,486.
The cost was enough to deter Ugandan climate justice advocate Nyombi Morris, 23, who had hoped to highlight activists’ concerns about the impact of EU biomass energy policies on forests. He declined the UK’s offer of accreditation because it came without financial support.
“Someday I will face them, face to face,” Morris said.
Host groups have tried to provide more affordable housing, but are struggling to keep up with demand. The Human Hotel Network said it had reserved beds at local Glasgow hostels for around 600 delegates.
“We know several thousand others who want to come and make their voices heard at COP26, but who cannot afford the astronomical prices of hotels in Scotland,” said Michael Yule, community manager of the network.
For others, the health risks and travel headaches caused by the pandemic were reasons to skip the event.
“I haven’t missed a COP since 2010… it will be the first,” Li Shuo, senior climate adviser at Greenpeace China in Beijing, told Reuters. “I hope the smaller NGO presence will remind everyone that there are voices that are not represented.
Government delegations without direct travel routes to Glasgow also face logistical challenges. The Cook Islands in the South Pacific will not send a delegation, and other small island nations are struggling to resolve visa issues.
Nobert Nyandire, a climate activist in Nairobi, Kenya, received a COVID-19 vaccine this month through the British government program. He will attend COP26 to work on UN technical negotiations for Kenya’s nonprofit Sustainable Environmental Development Watch, but said some colleagues were still waiting for vaccines or had been deterred by the cost.
“If the same people who are affected and who should in fact be able to participate in such negotiations are not going to attend, then that means that I am not very sure what kind of decisions are going to be made,” Nyandire said. .
(Reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels, Valerie Volcovici in Washington; editing by Katy Daigle and Ed Osmond)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.