COP26 president Alok Sharma said long ago that he wanted the coming climate conference in Glasgow to be the most inclusive ever. But last week campaigning groups declared it could potentially be the “most exclusionary ever”.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and the COP26 Coalition pointed out that in the course of their organising a Homestay network, matching delegates and activists with hosts, they had grown concerned that official delegates from poorer countries were struggling to find rooms they can afford for the duration of the conference.

And accommodation was not the only problem.

Over recent weeks, concern has risen amongst campaigners and delegates that those who had applied to come on the promise of vaccination by the UK Government, had not been contacted and vaccines not delivered. What some are urging, and have been for some time, is that the whole conference be postponed. Something extraordinary has happened in the last year – some of the strongest voices on climate have been calling for delay of the one major event global event to sort it out.

The UK Government has responded to the concerns saying that all delegates had now been contacted about how to book appointments and first doses of the vaccines would be administered by mid-September. But confidence is not high. There are still calls to postpone.

In 2018 the IPCC report declared that we had 12 years to act on climate change. Every year counts. Delaying would surely be disastrous. But the question out there is what is worse: a delayed conference, or one which takes place this autumn, but fails to set the right ambitions and agreements because key voices, those of some of the most affected people, are not there?

If you’re wondering why we need those delegates from countries deeply impacted by the crisis at this global conference, you only need look at COP history.

Many are already aware that Greta Thunberg has been saying she may not come to this COP26. But she is not alone. In July, former climate negotiator from the Philippines, Yeb Sano, tweeted that he would not be attending. He wrote: “I am not attending Glasgow Climate Conference #COP26. #Vaccineinequality is so blatant and brutal. Developing countries will be grossly disadvantaged.”

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At the COP19 climate conference in Warsaw, a key moment was a tearful speech Sano made in the wake of his country’s devastation by Typhoon Haiyan. Sano linked the extreme weather event to climate change and declared that he was fasting until the participants at Warsaw made “meaningful” progress. The statement he made that year helped lead to the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, to address the devastation the most vulnerable countries were experiencing. Would that have happened, had he not been there?

For a further insight into that battle it’s only necessary to watch the documentary Guardians Of The Earth, which follows, amongst others some delegates from the Least Developed Countries group as they negotiate during the COP21 that led to the Paris Agreement. Bangladesh’s Saleemul Huq, observes how the desires of wealthy countries often dominate. “Our red lines disappear, other people’s red lines stay," he says, expressing how often he believes the least developed countries are pushed to compromise, while others get more of what they want.

And we have to consider who will be there. Oil-producing countries will certainly be sending delegates – negotiators from Saudi Arabia, for instance, which in 2015 were accused of trying to wreck the Paris Agreement, and even objected to the target of 1.5C.

Last week, the chair of the COP26 group of least developed countries (LDC), Sonam Phuntsho Wangdi, said: “There are so many barriers to participation, and the uncertainty is causing a great deal of concern amongst our LDC delegates. We are due to travel to Glasgow in less than seven weeks – maybe less with quarantine requirements – yet still so much remains uncertain.”

The issue is also bigger than what delegates will be there. What will be relatively absent from this year’s COP is civil society, not just in the form of delegates, but also activists and campaigners. Asad Rehman, spokesperson for the COP26 Coalition has said such locking out of these voices, “undermines the ability of civil society to hold governments to account and deliver the outcomes needed”.

What is worse: postponement, or going ahead without those voices? The answer, of course, is neither. The answer is, in this window that is left, to make the full and necessary effort to make sure those voices are there. The climate crisis, after all, has not postponed. It goes on relentlessly.