Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg said Friday she plans to skip the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this November, saying the uneven rollout of Covid-19 vaccine campaigns would mean countries could not participate on even terms.
The 18-year-old activist deplored that by November richer countries would be vaccinating young healthy people "very often at the expense of people in risk groups in other parts of the world."
"With the extremely inequitable vaccine distribution I will not attend the COP26 conference if the development continues as it is now," Thunberg told AFP in an interview.
Thunberg, confirming a BBC report, said the conference should be postponed "if everyone could not attend in the same terms."
The conference has already been postponed once as it was originally planned for November 2020.
While the climate issue has been largely overshadowed by the pandemic, COP26 is seen as one of the opportunities to put the climate issue back on the agenda.
The absence of Greta Thunberg, who advocates for immediate and rapid targets for reductions of greenhouse gas emissions rather than goals set decades from now, would be a symbolic setback.
However, the campaigner said she did not rule out reversing her decision if vaccine access improved.
"Of course I would love to attend the COP26. But not unless everyone can take part on the same terms," Thunberg said.
Over 700 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered globally, according to an AFP tally, with just a handful of countries leading the pack by a wide margin.
- 'How dare you!' -
Though vaccinations have begun in at least 195 territories around the world, richer nations have made much more progress than the rest, with the lowest-income countries accounting for just 0.1 percent of the doses administered.
The World Health Organization's director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said Thursday that the continent was on "sidelines" of the worldwide vaccination drive against Covid-19, with only two percent of the global total to have received jab.
In late March, WHO warned of a widening gap in the distribution of vaccines between richer and poorer nations with agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calling the unequal distribution "not just a moral outrage" but warned it was "also economically and epidemiologically self-defeating."
Thunberg began campaigning for action on climate change in 2018 at the age of 15, by spending Fridays outside Sweden's parliament with a sign with the words "sitting outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 with her "School Strike for the Climate."
Her protest gained widespread attention and addressing world leaders with film crews from around the world in attendance at the UN climate summit in New York in 2019, she gave a fiery speech sparking headlines worldwide.
"How dare you!" she thundered.
In 2019 she was named person of the year by Time magazine.