The Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and its allies have expressed deep concern that the burdensome UK visa application process which has a 30-day wait time and the current COVID-19 travel protocols into the country could exclude thousands of Africans from fully participating in the 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26).
In a statement released from Nairobi, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Africa’s largest coalition of civil society groups said unless they are revised, travellers from countries on the so-called red list will be forced into a mandatory quarantine, creating psychological pressures that will hamper their effective participation.
“Any actions intended to suppress effective participation of the African people at COP26 amounts to a deliberate effort to putting the lives of the already vulnerable communities at risk,” said Dr Mithika Mwenda, Executive Director, PACJA.
He added that it is cynical for the UK to use the pandemic as an excuse to further disenfranchise badly hit African nations, when together with other western countries, it is actively holding back COVID-19 vaccines from the continent. Without a strong African presence in the room, COP26 will be a caucus of polluters.
The Statement by the civil societies noted that the new measures are designed to undermine meaningful debate on the critical issues that must be addressed to ensure that climate action is both sufficiently ambitious and caters for the long-standing needs and demands of the African people.
“It is ironical that despite its publicly stated ambitions, the UK government is doing everything possible to ensure that COP26 fails, or at least fails Africa. This is particularly disturbing in the light of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that shows that the window of opportunities for action to avoid a climate calamity is fast closing,” noted Mithika.
The recent IPCC report reaffirms that Africa is among the regions most affected by climate change and is expected to reach irreversible extremes earlier than other parts of the world.
While acknowledging the need for the UK Government to protect delegates and the UK public from COVID-19, the CSOSs however demanded that the need for response to the twin global threats posed by COVID-19 and the climate change demand that the UK government waive mandatory quarantine for all COP 26 participant, irrespective of whether they are in the red list or not.
“In the place of current discriminatory and suppressive travel restrictions, the UK should direct its efforts towards the enforcement of distancing and hygiene rules at COP 26 venues,” said the statement.
Further, the African activists said the UK should match their pledge of delivering an ambitious COP with action by facilitating the full and duress-free participation of all delegates, especially those from Africa. This includes, inter alia, making visa applications less burdensome; facilitating access to free testing and vaccination to delegates once in the UK.