Minister denied entrance to COP26 as it was not wheelchair accessible

Top minister denied entrance to COP26 because it was not wheelchair accessible


It appears that the world’s largest climate summit is not physically accessible to all — despite stating on its website its “venue, events and exhibits are wheelchair accessible,” the COP26 in Glasgow was not welcoming to Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar.

On Monday, Elharrar was stranded outside the UN Climate Change Conference when she could not enter any of the entrances to the building.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Elharrar, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a special handicap-accessible vehicle for mobility, tried for two hours to enter the building, but left after failing. 

“I went to the international climate conference to promote the joint struggle in the climate crisis through meetings with my counterparts around the world,” she Tweeted.

“Unfortunately, that was not possible because of accessibility problems that have no justification in the year 2021.”

“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.”

When she was later interviewed by the UK’s Channel 12 news, she said, “The only way they said I could come in was to walk on foot for almost a kilometre, or to board a shuttle that was not wheelchair accessible.”

“This is scandalous conduct and it shouldn’t have happened. I came with certain goals, and I couldn’t achieve them today.”

“The UN calls on everyone to adhere to the international treaty, so it is appropriate for there to be accessibility at its events.”

On Tuesday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called Elharrar to say the situation was unacceptable and assured her that she could enter the conference in his motorcade.  

Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yair Lapid took to Twitter to say that the summit’s organisers should know “you cannot take care of the future, the climate and sustainability, without taking care of people, accessibility and people with disabilities.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has since apologised to the Minister for the incident, saying, “I gather there was some confusion with the arrangements yesterday. I am very, very sorry about that.”

The UK Ambassador to Israel, Neil Wigan also tweeted he was “disturbed to hear that [Elharrar] was unable to attend meetings at COP26. I apologise deeply and sincerely to the Minister. We want a COP Summit that is welcoming and inclusive to everyone.”

The UK’s environment secretary, George Eustice was interviewed by BBC Radio 4, where he said, “We deeply regret that incident.”

“I know that at most of the other entrances, wheelchair access is there. It was because she came to an entrance where they didn’t have that provision.”

Image: The Times of Israel

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