It has been billed as a pivotal moment in the worldwide battle against climate change, one of the last opportunities to agree the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming.
However, how the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will go ahead in Glasgow in November remains shrouded in uncertainty.
Up to 30,000 delegates, including more than 200 world leaders, were expected to meet at the Scottish Exhibition Centre from November 1 to 12 but the pandemic has prompted urgent and ongoing talks to decide the format of the discussions.
While Britain’s vaccine programme has been a great success, many of those due to attend will be from countries where immunisation programmes are far less advanced and some countries may be battling new virus variants, prompting real fears the conference could trigger new outbreaks, here and abroad, when delegates return home.
Last month organisers agreed that governments would hold three weeks of virtual talks, starting at the end of this month, to begin negotiations and hammer out key agreements. But some developing nations have expressed concern about online negotiations, as they fear being outmaneuvered by larger nations, or lack the infrastructure to hold reliable online meetings.
And they fear their delegates could be barred from attending the main conference in person if they are seen as presenting a Covid risk. Last month climate campaigner Greta Thunberg said she did not plan to attend, and that the conference should be postponed until global vaccination rates have risen, to allow all nations to attend on equal terms.
Last Friday, the UK Government insisted the summit will go ahead in Glasgow, and with delegates attending in person.
It is not yet known if overseas delegates will be required to quarantine on arrival in Scotland. Currently everyone flying to a Scottish airport from overseas must check in to a hotel for two weeks.
The Scottish Government could not confirm what the travel regulations would be. It said: “The intent remains to hold an in-person summit this year, respecting the wishes of parties, many of whom feel strongly that COPs should be conducted in person.
“As you would expect, along with the UK Government, we are considering what different Covid scenarios might mean for COP26.”
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