Fury as disabled Israeli minister is unable to attend COP26 after waiting outside for TWO HOURS due to lack of wheelchair access as crowds of delegates join queues to get in for a second day
- Karine Elharrar spent two hours in the cold waiting for wheelchair access to be provided before giving up
- Israel’s energy minister could not get from her hotel to the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow
- Critics have slammed the event infrastructure after large queues formed outside the conference centre
- Representatives of 200 nations have gathered to thrash out a deal to try to limit global warming to 1.5C
Israel’s disabled energy minister has revealed she was unable to attend the first day of COP26 after she spent two hours waiting outside because of a lack of wheelchair access.
Crowds of delegates today joined queues in front of the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, where thousands of security officers are in place and a ring of steel has been erected.
Critics slammed the event’s infrastructure, with thousands of attendees yesterday forced to wait more than 90 minutes outside in a 9C (48F) chill and windy conditions.
Karine Elharrar spent two hours in the cold waiting for transport to the venue before giving up and heading back to her hotel room – despite being Israel’s energy minister – because the only options to get to the conference were to walk or board an shuttle bus that did not take her wheelchair.
Ms Elharrar wrote on Twitter: ‘I came to COP26 to meet with my counterparts around the world and promote a common struggle in the climate crisis. It is sad that the UN, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021, does not provide accessibility to its events.
‘Hopefully the lessons learned will be learned so that tomorrow green energy promotion, removal of barriers and energy efficiency will be the things I will deal with.’
Israel’s foreign minister slammed the conference organisers and said it was ‘impossible to worry about the future, the climate and about people if we do not first take care of human beings’.
Karine Elharrar (pictured) spent two hours in the cold waiting for wheelchair access to be provided before giving up and heading back to her hotel room – despite being Israel’s energy minister. Pictured, Ms Elharrar, Orna Barbivai and Meir Cohen from the Yesh Atid party
Crowds of delegates today joined queues in front of the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, where thousands of officers are in place and have erected a ring of steel
Neil Wigan, the UK ambassador to Israel, said he was ‘disturbed’ and apologised for Ms Elharrar’s experience.
The Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said he was ‘deeply disappointed and frustrated’ because the ‘COP venue is designed to be accessible for all’. He wrote on Twitter: ‘I have spoken to the Minister about this and I look forward to meeting her tomorrow.’
Scottish Labour MSP, Pam Duncan-Glancy, who is the first permanent wheelchair user elected to Holyrood, called the mistake ‘outrageous’.
She added: ‘From travel to the conference in an inaccessible shuttle (like, seriously) to no one being able to direct to the accessible route, this is an epic planning failure.
‘We cannot have climate justice without social justice. They need to sort this ASAP.’
A COP26 spokesperson said: ‘The site is accessible and there are blue badge spaces for the conference along with two fully accessible shuttle busses.’
Ms Elharrar wrote on Twitter: ‘I came to COP26 to meet with my counterparts around the world and promote a common struggle in the climate crisis. It is sad that the UN, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021, does not provide accessibility to its events’
Ms Elharrar tweeted she wanted to focus on the future of future generations at the COP26 summit, but when she arrived there was no accessible transport to the conference centre
The Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said he was ‘deeply disappointed and frustrated’ because the ‘COP venue is designed to be accessible for all’. He wrote on Twitter: ‘I have spoken to the Minister about this and I look forward to meeting her tomorrow’
Twitter users were furious after learning the energy minister was unable to attend the first day of COP26
Neil Wigan, the UK ambassador to Israel, said he was ‘disturbed’ and apologised for Ms Elharrar’s experience
It comes after organisers of the Cop26 climate change conference came under fire for urging delegates to tune into an online feed because of a ‘high level of attendance’ at the venue.
Those arriving at the SEC yesterday were confronted with enormous queues at various layers of security – starting with the gates checking letters, then security screening, and then to pick up accreditation passes in person.
There was a particular bottleneck at security, as delegates who had picked up accreditation on Sunday were forced to wait in huge lines along with new arrivals.
Those attending – many of whom flew in from around the world on planes – have already been through a detailed accreditation process, including getting an official letter stating they are registered and using an app to verify their visual ID. They must also present evidence of a negative Covid lateral flow test.
Amid mounting anger at the delays, a COP26 spokesman tweeted shortly before 2pm: ‘There is currently a high level of attendance at the COP26 venue. In order to comply with COVID-19 measures, we encourage you to only visit the Blue Zone for as long as necessary and consider making use of the COP Platform where possible.’
One Twitter user replied: ‘You could’ve done this over a Zoom call.’ A second said: ‘People fly thousands of miles, then you ask them to attend online?’ And a third added: ‘How could you have foreseen high levels of attendance?’
The ‘Blue Zone’, where the majority of discussions are taking place, is an area of the venue managed by the United Nations were 30,000 delegates, journalists and heads of state are holding talks, exhibits and events.
The queues meant social distancing was almost impossible as the crowd shuffled towards the entrance turnstiles, with Tereze Koubkova of the Czech Republic delegation saying: ‘We are lucky – at least it’s not raining.’
One negotiator said the queues reminded them of similar issues at the 2009 Copenhagen conference, telling Politico: ‘This has an effect on the mood. Some are starting to talk about the conference that shall not be named.’
The news website also reported that a helpline set up for disabled delegates was not responding to messages.
One adviser to Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who is commuting from Edinburgh each day after affordable hotel accommodation in Glasgow ran out, told Politico: ‘Why on earth was this venue selected if they knew it could not handle the crowd?’
It comes after rail chaos forced COP26 delegates off trains and onto planes when strong winds caused trees to fall on tracks leading up to Glasgow. Thousands of passengers were left stranded at London’s Euston station for most of Sunday afternoon after dozens of services were cancelled.
People wait outside the venue in queues this morning ahead of the third day of the climate summit
Thousands of people were again forced to queue in the cold in Glasgow on Tuesday morning
Delegates and journalists waited in queues to get through security and into the COp26 conference centre on Tuesday
The chaos started at midday when tree branches fell on the West Coast Main Line, the main route to Glasgow from London Euston, between Milton Keynes and Rugby in Buckinghamshire. Branches then fell across the tracks on the East Coast Main Line in three places near Tallington, just north of Peterborough, at around 1pm.
The city has also suffered from overflowing bins in recent weeks – with bin collectors and street cleaners walking out on strike in Glasgow amid a row between the GMB union and city council. It comes as climate activists plotted chaos and Greta Thunberg said sometimes you have to ‘p*** people off’ to protect the environment.
On Sunday, Swedish activist Miss Thunberg voiced support for the tactics of road-blocking group Insulate Britain as demonstrators from various organisations headed to Scotland amid a £100million policing operation.
The Queen has recorded a video message on Friday that was played to world leaders on Monday. She was previously due to attend the conference where she had hoped to deliver an in-person speech and to host a reception.
But the 95-year-old was forced to drop out last week after royal doctors said that she should only take part in ‘light, desk-based’ duties for at least a fortnight due to concerns about her health following an overnight hospital stay.
Among the first protests in Glasgow was a group of Oxfam activists wearing ‘big heads’ of world leaders dressed in kilts and holding bagpipes at Royal Exchange Square.
Hundreds of delegates and media queuing to get in to the conference area at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow Monday
A message on a screen at the Cop26 climate change conference urging delegates who have travelled to Glasgow to tune into the online feed because of a ‘high level of attendance’ at the venue
Masses of people queue as they arrive for the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow on Monday
The queue to get into the COP26 site in Glasgow on Monday as large numbers of people wait to get through security
Huge numbers of people queue to get into the climate change summit in Glasgow on Monday
Delegates queue for the UN climate summit in Glasgow which is gathering leaders from around the world
Those represented were Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping.
An average of 10,000 officers from Police Scotland and forces around Britain will be on duty every day for three weeks during the conference, with the UK Government picking up the bill.
‘Who’s going to tell him?’: Twitter users poke fun at CNN news veteran Wolf Blitzer for tweeting he’s reporting on COP26 from Edinburgh… by pointing out the summit is in GLASGOW
CNN news anchor Wolf Blitzer was lampooned for ‘going to the wrong city’ after he said he was reporting from Edinburgh on the COP26 Glasgow conference.
The 73-year-old veteran broadcaster tweeted a photograph of himself in a studio in front of Edinburgh Castle, 50 miles away from where the event is taking place.
But Twitter users told the American journalist that he was ‘in the wrong city’, with one saying: ‘If you’re in Edinburgh you’re in the wrong place fella.’
Another said: ‘Yeah, that’s just down the road from Glasgow. Why not pop over to Loch Ness at lunchtime for a spot of monster hunting?’
Among those queuing up outside on Monday was i political commentator Paul Waugh who said it was ‘an international embarrassment’, adding: ‘Utter chaos at security for COP26. It’s not as if they couldn’t plan for this is it?’
LBC Westminster correspondent Ben Kentish added: ‘Security now trying to stop people taking photos of the massive, barely moving queues. Total chaos.’ He added that the ban was apparently on ‘United Nations orders’.
And ITV royal editor Chris Ship tweeted: ‘It’s entirely possibly that the accreditation queue for COP26 will take longer than the train journey to Scotland.’
Sun political editor Harry Cole added: ‘Security heavies trying to stop domestic and international journalists photographing or filming COP26 queues. Really bad look.’
Downing Street refused to apologise for the lengthy queues faced by some delegates and visitors. Officials said the Government was working with the UN and operational staff.
Asked if the chaotic scenes were embarrassing for the UK, a No 10 spokesman said: ‘The security arrangements and accreditation for Cop are mandated by the UN and managed in partnership between the UN and Cop26 operational staff.
‘You will be aware that there are thousands of delegates arriving on site each day and we are working closely with our partners like the UN FCC to minimise wait times as much as possible during busy times whilst we ensure we keep safe entry for those who wish to access the site.’
Asked if the UK would apologise, the spokesman said: ‘We are working closely with the UN and Cop operational staff.’
It comes after Miss Thunberg, 18, who began the school strike climate change protests, was asked on the Andrew Marr Show whether ‘blocking roads’ was justified.
She said: ‘As long as no-one gets hurt… then I think sometimes you need to anger some people. Like, for instance, the school strike movement would never have become so big if there wasn’t friction, if some people didn’t get p***** off.’
In Glasgow, a ring of steel is being erected around the conference site on the north bank of the River Clyde as security forces brace for threats to the heads of state in attendance and potential disruption from climate change protesters.
And police will even deploy specially trained officers equipped with high-tech devices that can bring down rogue drones using electromagnetic pulses.
Police expect to make 300 arrests a day but sources warned if the number gets much higher, custody suites will be overwhelmed.
Meanwhile, a report found last month almost half of Scotland’s police officers have experienced high levels of fatigue in the previous fortnight, which does not bode well for a three-week conference during which many will have to work 12-hour shifts.
Delegates queue as they arrived for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on Monday
People arrive for the COP26 summit in Glasgow today after police formed a ring of steel
Scotland’s lawyers have also vowed to boycott weekend custody courts amid an ongoing row over legal aid cuts. This means the justice system could be plunged into chaos by the sheer number of people arrested at the event.
US President Joe Biden is among more than 100 world leaders expected to attend the event.
The summit will also feature a climate rally in Glasgow that could be attended by more than 150,000 people.
Tens of thousands of delegates from 193 member states and four observer states will attend the summit, with the SEC conference venue designated a ‘blue zone’ – meaning it will be policed by the UN, with Scottish police only allowed to enter if there is a threat to life.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg is interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday
Climate activist Greta Thunberg arrives at Glasgow Central train station on Saturday
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