As Britain and other countries prepare to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference next week, Britain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, has apologized for his government’s failure to fulfill a promise that the meeting would have wheelchair access for its delegates, the Guardian reports. Gove made the apology in Israel after a Labour party minister in Israel also expressed concerns about the wheelchair accessibility of one of the conference buildings, the Golan Meeting Hall.
“I am sorry that I am unable to attend the COP 26 conference in Poland this year, and in an attempt to resolve my limited travel arrangement with my Israeli colleagues, I was advised that an agreement had been reached with my counterparts over wheelchair access to Golan Hall,” Gove said in a statement on Friday. “This was subsequently disproved, so I have told the Israeli authorities that I would like to attend the conference at another opportunity. I am in contact with Polish ministers to seek an understanding as to what went wrong with the contract and the contractual arrangements.”
According to The Guardian, the failure to provide wheelchair access to the conference hall took place despite the opening ceremony in Golan being held on the same day as the inaugural session of COP 26 in Poland. Another venue that could serve as a venue for the conference — the “Podmányaki Gighi” or “Gighia” historic district of New York City — will be closed this year due to poor wheelchair access. Accessible venues for some leaders scheduled to attend COP 26 are now thought to include the U.S. Congress, where several leaders are expected to be flown in from. The U.S. has gone from a nearly universal role in past United Nations climate change conferences to a temporary absence, but the U.S. is still scheduled to take part in a number of upcoming conferences, including one in Ethiopia, although a representative there promised that delegates would be “welcomed very warmly.”