But pandemics don’t treat everyone equally. It has been hard for all of us, but so many people’s experiences have been changed and shaped by things outside their control, with older people, disabled people and other vulnerable groups being hit particularly hard.
Many of us have seen a greater emphasis on working from home in the last 18 months. While digital exclusion is still a problem, one of the long-term legacy of Covid is that more employers have had to be more flexible, making these options more accessible.
This has provided new and better opportunities for many people who cannot travel to an office every day because they are ill or have caring responsibilities. It is not everyone’s preference, but for those who have benefited from greater flexibility, we need to ensure that they don’t lose it.
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It is our largest institutions that must lead by example when it comes to accessibility. Individual responsibility should not fall on them. Yet COP itself hasn’t been accessible enough for everyone, with some campaigners, including Friends of the Earth, branding it “the most exclusionary COP ever.”
According to the COP26 Coalition – which represents indigenous movements and vulnerable communities around the world – around two-thirds of those it was helping to travel to Glasgow had to give up due to a combination of visa and accreditation problems, a lack of access to Covid vaccines and unaffordable accommodation.
Others, such as Karine Elharrar, the Israeli Energy Minister and wheelchair user, were unable attend important meetings because there was no accessible transport. This kind of exclusion is unacceptable, and especially shocking at events like COP.
It is a loss of experience when people are removed form the discussion. If we want new ideas then we need to make sure that it’s not just the same voices at the table.
We know that the poorest countries pollute more than the richest countries. This is why their voices must be heard. They are already facing the worst impacts of climate change and have less to aid. Climate justice is just as important as climate action.
This week the Scottish Government doubled its climate justice fund to £24 million and announced a new partnership with the Climate Justice Resilience Fund to support communities that are suffering from loss and damage due to climate change. I urge the UK and other countries to take similar steps.
It is amazing to think about the rapid changes that many employers and governments made to their working conditions after Covid. This is a reminder of the speed at which things can be done when there is an urgency.
Climate crisis urgency demands urgent action, just like Covid. But climate action must have people at its core. We cannot just replicate all existing inequalities. We must create a fairer, more sustainable world that is accessible to all. It must be a place where everyone can thrive.
Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity