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If we want to fix the climate, we need to fix Covid

What’s happening? A deal to limit global temperature rises to under 1.5C will only be achieved this year at COP26 if developing nations are financially supported to tackle Covid-19, the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, will tell leaders at the G7 meeting in Cornwall on 11 to 13 June. Until the pandemic has been contained, poorer countries will lack the financial ability and agenda to invest in low-carbon technologies to aid decarbonisation. The UK will contribute over 100 million vaccine doses through the United Nations-backed initiative Covax, designed to provide vaccinations to low and medium-income nations. (The Times)

Why does this matter? Climate change isn’t set to slow down anytime soon, and we need to get a move on to do something about it. There are strong links between economic and health crises and climate issues, so achieving international climate targets means it is equally important to address issues around inequality.

Over 10 million people have been displaced over the last six months by climate change-driven extreme weather events such as flooding and droughts. Developing countries are less-equipped to deal with, yet more at risk from climate impacts – so given developing nations have contributed the most to climate change, it seems unfair that emerging economies are still expected to do their part to the same extent as other countries while they are also grappling with the worst of the pandemic.

Johnson is set to propose a target at this weekend’s G7 meeting for the global population to be vaccinated by the end of 2022 to combat Covid-19, but equally to help ensure progress on climate change. However, given that in February just 10 nations had distributed 75% of all vaccines, while over 130 countries had not received any doses, this timeline may prove challenging.

A COP26 for developed nations only? Global climate discussions are already behind schedule after COP26 was postponed from taking place at the end of last year. Achieving any sort of international deal will require unanimous agreement, making it even more important to ensure inclusivity for all participants.

In February, a Politico survey revealed less than half of the 51 nations planning to attend the conference had vaccinated their delegates. Countries considered the most climate-vulnerable – such as the Maldives, Ethiopia and Fiji – all stated they did not expect to receive the vaccine domestically by November. Without external support, voices of poorer nations may be excluded if they cannot send delegates to the event. Under the scenario of virtual attendance, presence in online discussions may also be hindered due to issues including poor internet connectivity.

So what’s the solution? The UK has outlined plans to offer vaccinations to COP26 delegates to enable developing countries to attend negotiations face-to-face. On a larger scale, a fairer inoculation roll out is required, along with climate-friendly strategies that don’t impact recovering nations’ economies and resources. The vaccine sharing scheme Covax is attempting to secure vaccines to low and middle-income nations, while Pfizer and BioNTech are stepping up efforts to aid equal distribution by offering poorer nations doses for free.

Alongside these efforts, delivering long-standing promises of increased climate finance from developed countries will be essential in supporting emerging economies with investment for renewable energy generation and climate adaptation projects.

This article first appeared in our free weekly newsletter, Sustt.

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Katie Chan

Sustainability Editor

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