Poor nations warn of visa headaches as Glasgow climate talks near

Delegates from countries in Britain’s coronavirus "red list" must quarantine in a hotel for up to 10 days before attending the summit

  
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the opening of the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. Image used for illustrative purpose. Image used for illustrative purpose.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the opening of the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. Image used for illustrative purpose. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

LONDON/BRUSSELS - The world's poorest countries have said they may struggle to meet visa requirements and cover all COVID-19 quarantine costs for the COP26 climate summit, raising concerns that some might not be able to attend in person.

The U.N. conference, which is meant to spur countries to make bigger commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions, is due to start in Glasgow on Oct. 31.

"We're still concerned about the possibility of getting our delegates to COP26, to negotiate key issues about the global response to climate change that will have such a profound effect on our people," Bhutan's Sonam Phuntsho Wangdi, who is chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) group, told Reuters.

Britain said last week that government ministers travelling to COP26, plus two staff members, would be exempt from quarantine requirements when they arrive.

But other delegates from countries in Britain’s coronavirus "red list", such as Angola, Ethiopia and Haiti, must quarantine in a hotel for up to 10 days before attending the summit.

Wangdi said some countries' delegations are not led by ministers, meaning they would need to visit a visa centre to complete their application to attend COP26.

Delegates from 25 of the poorer countries would have to leave their territories to go to visa centres in another state - a challenging process during the pandemic.

"Whether or not a minister is attending COP26 should not determine the possibility of technical negotiators and government representatives getting to Glasgow," Wangdi said.

Asked about the LDC group's concerns, a COP26 spokesperson said, "The participation of ministers from all nations in all parts of the world will be fundamental for achieving global agreement on climate outcomes."

Britain has resisted calls from campaigners to delay the COP26 summit over concerns that poorer countries battling COVID-19 will struggle to attend. COP26 was already postponed by a year because of the pandemic. 

The British government has said it will cover the cost of hotel quarantines for delegates from poorer countries when they travel to COP26.

But the LDC group said it was unclear if the UK would also pay for extended hotel stays and rearranging flights, if delegates caught COVID-19 at the summit and had to self-isolate before returning home.

"Without this assurance it will be difficult for delegates to accept that financial risk," the group said.

The British government did not immediately respond to a request to confirm if it would cover costs of LDC delegates who are required to self-isolate in the UK.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett and Susanna Twidale; Editing by Andrew Heavens) ((susanna.twidale@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 5424753;))


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