Greta Thunberg Refuses to Attend COP26 Climate Change Summit, Blames Vaccine Inequality

Greta Thunberg has said she will not attend the 2021 United Nations climate summit unless the issue of global vaccine inequality is addressed.

The Swedish climate activist said the U.K. government, which is hosting the COP26 summit, should postpone the event until vaccine rates have risen worldwide.

Thunberg, 18, wrote on Twitter: "Of course I would love to attend the Glasgow COP26. But not unless everyone can take part on the same terms.

"Right now many countries are vaccinating healthy young people, often at the expense of risk groups and front line workers, mainly from the global south, as usual."

Thunberg said the November conference was not necessary to address the issue of climate change, adding: "Solidarity and action can start today."

Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem.
Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions.->

— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) April 9, 2021

According to the BBC, Thunberg's decision could be a blow to the U.K. government. She has been a regular attendee at global climate conferences in recent years.

British officials have said there are no plans to postpone the conference, despite rumours to the contrary and the fact that the pandemic is worsening in some parts of the world. The summit has already been pushed back once from 2020.

On March 24, Stella Kyriakides, the European commissioner for health, warned that the COVID outbreak was getting worse in many E.U. nations amid difficulties with the vaccine rollout.

In Germany this week, a government spokeswoman said Chancellor Angela Merkel supported a short national lockdown to control the virus while more people are vaccinated.

On Thursday, Voice of America cited a World Health Organization director in a report about vaccine supply shortages and delays in Africa.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa, said some African countries had been more successful in distributing vaccines than others, but the continent as a whole had administered only 2 percent of the doses that have been given worldwide, according to Voice of America.

In India, COVID cases are continuing to increase sharply. The country reported 131,968 new infections on Friday—a record increase for the third consecutive day, according to The Times of India. Deaths rose by 780 on Friday to a total of 167,642. India has vaccinated nearly 100 million people, according to health ministry figures.

U.K. officials are working on the assumption that the 2021 climate summit will not be virtual. A government source told the BBC: "We are working all-out on the basis that this will be an 'in-person' conference."

However, it is understood there are contingency plans to scale down the event or make it partly virtual if necessary.

Getty Images Greta Thunberg Gesture
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg at the COP25 climate conference on December 9, 2019, in Madrid. She has said she will not attend the COP26 summit in Glasgow, citing global vaccine inequality. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images