Alok Sharma’s promise that Cop26 would be the most inclusive Cop yet, and his intent that “all voices are heard, including the voices of developing countries, of women, of young people and indigenous peoples” was an ambition worth our support.
Bond’s Disability and Development Group (DDG) alongside Climate Action Network UK (CAN-UK) seized the opportunity to work with civil servants to help extend this ambition to persons with disabilities in the run up to COP26 and published a climate action briefing paper which aimed to bring critical disability inclusion issues and recommendations to the attention of the UK government.
Though the reality of inclusion at Cop26 didn’t live up to the ambition, there is much to learn and build on.
Here are our four takeaways on how to ensure Cop27 is truly inclusive.
1. Technological, financial and physical barriers need to be removed
Lessons must be learnt from the catalogue of accessibility issues that beset Cop26. As Israeli delegate, Minister Karine Elharrar, noted in her response to the Prime Minister after she was unable to gain wheelchair access to Cop26, such incidents are ‘a good experience to make sure the next UN conference will be accessible’.
Accessibility checks and services are critical for any event or meeting. In practice this should include things like ensuring everyone can take part in the governments’ calls for evidence, providing sign language interpretation and real-time captioning during in-person events, or thinking through what makes a room and a stage accessible for wheelchair users across the conference venue or providing accessible online platforms. As with other conference preparations, accessibility services require extensive pre-conference testing, training if needed for conference staff, and people should be given an easy way to provide feedback on issues or problems they experience. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There are many excellent toolkits and expertise available to support this.
2. Keep disability inclusion on the table through civil society engagement
Here in the UK, Bond’s DDG and CAN-UK worked collaboratively to ensure that the FCDO Disability Inclusion Team and Cabinet Office Cop26 unit, and even Cop President, Alok Sharma, were briefed on what we were calling for. These recommendations, including providing targeted support for persons with disabilities and mainstreaming disability inclusion across climate mitigation and adaptation, continue to remain relevant going into Cop27. We would urge Bond members to continue to champion and build on the seven overarching recommendations we have put forward.
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Thanks to combined advocacy efforts, we helped ensure The Glasgow Climate Pact included a call for State Parties to “respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights – including the rights of persons with disabilities”. While this is the only reference to disability, (and an extension of the Paris Agreement, 2015), we are in a strong position to both promote a disability-inclusive rights-based approach to climate action and call for meaningful demonstrations by State parties of their commitment to “leave no one behind”.
3. Advocate for financing to enable disability inclusive climate action
Finance was a key issue for Cop26, and a focus on needs-based financing is a really important issue for vulnerable communities moving forward. The intersectionality of disability with age, gender, ethnicity, race, can deepen climate vulnerability so we need to drive climate action that responds to diverse needs.
This means that advocacy around the Glasgow financing principles must make clear the need to increase grant-based financing for those most vulnerable. Extra effort is required to make sure money reaches organisations that work with persons with disabilities, and delivers finance in ways which do not reinforce inequality or marginalisation.
4. Collaborate – let’s do better together
Inclusive climate action means climate justice for all, and as we now work together towards Cop27, everyone has a role to play to encourage our governments, business leaders and other stakeholders to take this seriously and listen to the recommendations we are calling for. This means allocating sufficient time and energy to working with a diverse range of voices and lived experiences. If people with disabilities are not being heard, climate action cannot be inclusive.