A network of more than 1500 non-governmental organisations from 130 nations has urged the UK to postpone the COP26 climate summit, saying a lack of Covid-19 vaccines risks sidelining developing countries.

An increase in coronavirus cases, unequal global vaccine rollout and stringent quarantine requirements for more than 60 “red list” nations or territories hoping to attend the United Nations summit in Glasgow, Scotland from 1 to 12 November mean “a safe, inclusive and just global climate conference is impossible”, the Climate Action Network (CAN) said.

“Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out,” said CAN executive director Tasneem Essop.

“There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the UN climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis.”

However, the British government countered that the climate crisis is too urgent for the meeting — already postponed by a year because of the pandemic — to be further delayed.

COP26 president Alok Sharma said in a tweet: “Climate change has not taken time off, which is why COP26 must go ahead in person in November.

“The UK is funding quarantine hotels for accredited delegates from red list countries... in addition to our vaccines offer to ensure an inclusive, accessible and Covid-secure summit.”

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Developing countries will be affected by decisions taken at COP26 on issues including climate finance and international carbon markets.

“A climate summit without the voices of those most affected by climate change is not fit for purpose,” said Mohamed Adow, director of the Nairobi-based think-tank Power Shift Africa.

Rich nations stitch-up feared

“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.”

However, CAN said its call to delay COP26 “does not in any way imply a postponement of urgent climate action or a boycott of the climate talks”.

“As accredited observers to the UN climate negotiations, CAN has been a key player in every COP since 1995, advocating for the strongest response from governments to the climate emergency,” it added.

The NGO said it would keep pushing political leaders to deliver ambitious national climate targets, fulfil their responsibilities on climate finance, phase out fossil fuels and address the needs of the most vulnerable people experiencing loss and damage.

“Escalating climate impacts all over the world and the most recent IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report are a reminder that consistent, urgent and transformative action on the ground to avert the worst of the climate crisis is needed every day, day after day,” it said.

“We continue to hold those in power accountable to this.”