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Ministers Accused Of "Dithering" Over COP26 Plans After Failing To Confirm ‘Virtual’ Attendance

Alok Sharma has said the hopes the climate summit will go ahead in-person

3 min read

Exclusive: The government has been urged to urgently clarify whether attendees will be able to join the COP26 summit virtually as visa deadlines loom.

The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of being "unprepared" for the upcoming climate summit after COP26 President Alok Sharma confirmed they had not yet decided on whether the event will allow virtual attendance.

Ministers said in March they would do “everything we can” to ensure the November summit in Glasgow would meet in person, despite concerns the presence of delegates from 200 nations raised the risk of further coronavirus spread.

But in a written answer to Lib Dem climate spokesperson Wera Hobhouse, Sharma confirmed the government had still not decided how the event would be organised.

Sharma said a physical event was “the basis on which we are planning”, but added: “We are working through the process to determine what mitigation measures are needed to safely host COP26, including for people from countries on our amber and red lists at the time of the conference.”

The Lib Dems said leaving the plans to the “last minute” risked disrupting the ability of delegates to attend the event given that they would need to begin applying for visas in August.

The party hit out at the government for failing to provide answers on whether those coming from poorer nations would be given support to pay for stays in quarantine hotels if they are coming from countries on the travel ‘red list’.

Hobhouse said ministers had “dithered” over the organisation of the crunch climate talks.

"Is it really surprising that the Conservatives are unprepared for COP26? Despite having an extra year to finalise their plans, they have dithered and left everything to the last minute – just like their entire climate agenda,” she said.

"This Conservative Government is going backwards in terms of cutting emissions. In the last few months alone they’ve scrapped the Green Homes Grant, which aimed to support people to insulate their homes, and cut grants available for new electric vehicles owners.

She added: "Liberal Democrats believe we need climate action now. That means accelerating UK plans to cut emissions, and ensuring the UK is leading the world ahead of COP26 in November."

Responding to the remarks, a COP26 spokesperson said: "We are working very hard with our partners to ensure that we deliver an in person COP which allows all countries to participate on an equal footing while ensuring the safety of delegates and the community locally.”

They added: "We continue to explore how technology and other innovations can make the summit more resilient, safe and inclusive.

"We will be announcing our plans for November in due course."

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