The crucial climate talks in Glasgow may be derailed by the deadly virus.
The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), meant to be held in Glasgow between 9 – 20 November 2020, may be cancelled after the first few confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Scotland have been announced.
Since the announcement that Glasgow will hold COP26, many climate groups, including Extinction Rebellion, have been very vocal on how the conference should go. However, many global events, including the Olympics, face the difficult decision of public safety.
There are already many travel concerns leading to the likely cancelation of these talks. Italy is meant to be hosting many pre-summit discussions and China, an assumed large player in the talks, may be unable to attend due to the virus outbreak. Both countries have currently imposed travel restrictions which will make it difficult to physically be present at the discussions.
COP26 has already been controversial. Prime minister Boris Johnson has been criticised for his stance on the environment, and has told first minister Nicola Sturgeon to not attend the conference. The security details of the conference were recently leaked, leaving many to speculate if it is safe for many world leaders.
This notion of fear around the cancellation of the conference has been dismissed by many activists. One campus activist, Miles Grant, said: “This rumour is similar to when they said Boris was going to move it to London. The idea of them cancelling it nine months out, for an outbreak happening now, just shows their fear of the strength and unity of the environmentalist bloc here in Glasgow.”
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, gave a report to the first minister saying it is likely that a mild form of the virus will infect 50% of Scots but could be as high as 80%. The majority of cases do not require hospitalisation, but simply isolation and time to fight the virus. Only 4% of the infected may need to seek a hospital, most of whom would already have medical deficiencies, as well as the elderly.
Another student and Extinction Rebellion activist, Alvaro Perez Guardiola, said: “While I understand that some groups may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19, it really is no more than a flu. It’s very striking to see how this virus is being given precedence over other diseases that are killing a lot more people, like Ebola, Cholera, or Measles – perhaps due to the fact that most of these other infections occur outside the western world.” He also added that it might be the perfect opportunity to have a teleconference and save jetfuel, thus saving carbon emissions.
The Cabinet Office has said the event is going ahead as planned, saying: “The summit is still many months away but we’re monitoring the situation closely. Our officials are attending all planned engagements.”