Time zones and travel rules mute voices of least developed countries at Glasgow climate talks

Press release, 13 September 2021
UK promises of vaccines and quarantine expenses are not enough. Clarity is urgently needed on virtual participation for delegates.

Representatives from just 13 of the 46 least developed countries (LDCs) will be able to travel freely to Glasgow to attend crucial climate change talks in November (COP26) while the rest will either face lengthy quarantines under current restrictions or will be forced to participate virtually from distant time zones, new analysis from the IIED shows.

The LDC Group represents those countries which are especially vulnerable to climate change but have done the least to cause the problem and includes low-lying Pacific nations, much of sub-Saharan Africa and many countries in Southeast Asia. The group and its allies have been flagging for some time that COVID-19 restrictions would make in-person attendance at the Glasgow COP extremely challenging. 

Although the UK government last week announced it would pay UK quarantine costs, attendees from countries like Bangladesh, Laos and Cambodia will face 14 days of quarantine at their own expense on return to their home country. 

Border closures mean delegates from Tuvalu and Kiribati will not be able to travel but so far, no option to attend virtually has been announced. The UNFCCC has approved the use of a web platform and the latest advice from the COP organisers indicates numbers in plenary sessions will be limited with others able to follow proceedings in overflow locations or via a webcast. But no apparent provision is being made for delegates dialling in from time zones 11 or 12 hours ahead of the UK.

Andrew Norton, director of the IIED, said: “It's vital that those suffering most from the consequences of climate change have their voices heard at these crucial talks and yet time is running out to ensure that they have as much access as everyone else.

“With no let-up in the pandemic, organisers will surely need to provide a way for representatives to attend the conference virtually. They should make this clear now, taking into account the vastly different time zones, so that delegates representing countries already suffering a climate emergency, can plan ahead.”

The UK announced in June that it would make vaccinations available to everyone who wanted to attend the talks but it’s not clear whether all have received them. Campaigners and activists from some LDC countries are reported to have heard nothing despite applying for vaccines. Just over 3% of the populations of LDC countries have been vaccinated.

Media enquiries

For more information or to request an interview, contact Sarah Grainger (sarah.grainger@iied.org) on +44 7503 643332.

Notes to editors