UK vows maximum attendance at COP-26 summit as COVID lingers

LONDON (AP) — The British official organizing November’s climate summit in Scotland pledged Monday that the event would be held in person and that the government would work to ensure maximum participation by leaders from around the world despite lingering travel restrictions due to COVID-19.

With more than 20,000 people from almost 200 countries set to attend COP-26, Alok Sharma said the government was working with the United Nations and other partners to ensure everyone who needs vaccinations can get them and that there will be measures in place to guarantee the conference is safe for delegates and the people of Glasgow, the host city.

Behind the scenes, officials are working on plans that may relax vaccination rules and travel restrictions for thousands of attendees.

The comments came as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report saying the planet is running out of time to control global warming. World leaders must come together at COP-26 and set ambitious plans for reducing carbon emissions if they hope to achieve the goal of keeping average global temperature rises to less than 1.5 degrees Centigrade (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), Sharma told reporters after the report was released.

“What we cannot do is delay this any further,” Sharma said. “We’ve delayed COP by one year already, and climate change, unfortunately, didn’t take time off during that period. Last year was the hottest year on record, and the last decade was the hottest on record as well. And you’ll have seen from the IPCC report that the warnings are getting starker and starker.”

British officials are working on COVID-19 protocols for the conference that would ease travel restrictions for some delegates.

Under those rules, Britain would recognize all UN-approved vaccines when checking the vaccination status of those attending COP-26. This includes vaccines developed in China and Russia that have not been authorized for use in Britain. Current U.K. travel rules recognize only the Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

In addition, the rules may let both vaccinated and unvaccinated delegates from so-called red list countries enter the U.K., with a five-day period of self-isolation required after entry. Some 60 countries are currently on the government’s red list because of concerns about infection levels. Most travel from these countries is banned, and those who do enter the U.K. are required to spend 10 days in a government-approved hotel at their own expense.

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