Weekly Poll – COP26

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 1 November 2021, we asked a question about the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference.


Question. Do you think COP26 will make progress in tackling the impact of climate change on disabled people?  

  • YES – 13% (7 respondents)
  • NO – 87% (46 respondents)


We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Tackling Climate Change

COP26 is the United Nations climate change conference which brings together representatives from around the world to combat climate change collectively. The majority of respondents were sceptical about the progress that will be made, particularly when leaders of the two of the world’s largest emitters, China and Russia, are not in attendance. Respondents also questioned the impact on the environment with representatives from across the globe travelling to Glasgow to take part in the summit.

“Although countries such as China has refused to confirm it will phase out coal use, other countries have signed up to this new agreement. COP26 will make advances but it may be a bit too little.”

“I don’t believe you can make a lot of difference when the main culprits are not in attendance.”

“A waste of money. A jolly for politicians and others.”

“I don’t think all the countries will adhere to all what is agreed at the summit and deadlines will not be met.”

“At the risk of sounding downbeat, I have seen nothing to indicate otherwise that this will make a difference. How I would love to be proved wrong.”

“Our world is in crisis, disasters are heading our way while politicians drive in motorcades, fly into Glasgow in private jets and pollute our air, while contingency plans to save life and limb are put on a back burner.”

“This conference won’t make much impact on climate change for anybody. All these people driving around in huge motor cavalcades, flying in from all parts of the world. Just a box-ticking exercise, all a bit of a sham. As young Greta says, ‘blah, blah, blah”

Impact on Disabled People

Respondents reflected on the disproportionate impact climate change has on disabled people across the world. Disabled people regularly face structural barriers that threaten their lives during extreme weather events. Inaccessible infrastructure and public transport, and other barriers result in disabled people being less likely to be evacuated safely. It is also important to ensure that measures that are introduced to reduce emissions, such as recycling initiatives, deposit return schemes, active travel and low-emission vehicles are accessible and inclusive for disabled people.

“What additional barriers do disabled people face recycling? Bins are heavy, and cumbersome for me (I have arthritis). In terms of wider issues, disabled people may need additional help to achieve heating/insulation targets, especially as we may need to keep warm to help the effects of our disability.”

“People are being advised to increase use of public transport, but locally the numbers of trains have decreased. Also, when I lived in a more rural location, the nearest bus stop was half a mile away at the bottom of a hill – and I lived at the top of the hill.”

“Rather than disabled people being recognised in general media as among the hardest hit – such as how being a wheelchair user I couldn’t go outside in the last blizzard, yet it also cancelled my groceries and pharmacy deliveries, resulting in running out of food and meds – the populace in fact seems to regard us as more responsible than them for climate change! You see it everywhere: people complaining about Motability cars using energy over buses and trains; people complaining about the materials that go into wheelchairs; people complaining about disabled people using more heating because we’re home all day; people complaining when disabled people need to use disposable wipes instead of “just using a flannel”; the plastic straws thing; I could go on. So, there’s absolutely no public appetite or pressure among the abled populace to push their politicians to do anything for disabled people in climate change.”

“There are many incidental reductions that could benefit disabled people. Anything which decarbonises home deliveries will massively reduce any personal contributions that way. So will decarbonising home heat, subsidising insulation, home solar panels, etc. That also benefits disabled people by improving our home’s resilience in a natural disaster such as a power cut or if the heating goes out.”

Engage with Disabled People

In order to address the disproportionate impact climate change has on disabled people, it is vital that disabled people across the globe are meaningfully involved in the decision-making process on a local, national and international level.

“Disabled people don’t feature highly in the decision-making process. Commitment to inclusion by decision makers is required and the capacity to enforce infringements of the Equality Act 2010. More specific regulation may help as the Equality Act is pretty vague when it comes to what inclusion and ‘reasonable adjustments’ mean.”

“There needs to be help for disabled organisations to create an enabling environment for their establishment and functioning; offer capacity-building and training to increase their ability to participate; allow them to and support them in seeking and securing funds and resources; promote participation of disabled people across all population groups.”

“We could just be asked for our opinions, but I feel that the views of disabled people may not be taken into account.”

“It would seem that disabled people should be consulted more and that politicians should aim to protect and represent their interests, because the attitudes and treatment in society towards disabled people including austerity measures, have been very seriously detrimental. It would seem also, that to consider the barriers and difficulties facing disabled people would be a step in the right direction too. Again, most disabled people need even more assistance to tackle climate change, due to the nature of their disability concerns.”

Despite the clear need for engaging with disabled people, a number of respondents commented on how Israel’s energy minister Karine Elharrar was unable to attend the opening day of COP26 because the summit was not wheelchair accessible.

“It is all talk, and nothing happens. The fact they couldn’t even organise an event that was wheelchair accessible (or make accommodations for another person interviewed who asked for them as they couldn’t stand for the hour through security) I think gives enough of an answer. If they can’t do the simple, already in legislature bit what chance is there for anything else?!”

“It was shocking that Karine Elharrar couldn’t access the first day of COP26 because there was no wheelchair access. If they can’t include their ministers what hope is there”

“The Israeli Minister found it difficult to access the conference. The only way disabled people can be more involved in the decision-making process is by leaders and policy makers asking and listening to disabled people in the first instance.”

“I read earlier that a wheelchair-using delegate couldn’t attend so no, I very much doubt that disabled people are being considered.”

“To show how much they consider disabled people one of the officials who was in a wheelchair had to leave as there was no access for them.”

“The UK Government has embarrassed themselves to the World by not making the Conference accessible to disabled people. The printed inclusive communications are all wrong, as are handrails, seats have no armrests and speaker platforms are not accessible to wheelchair users.”


The majority of respondents believed that COP26 will make limited progress in tackling the disproportionate impact climate change has on disabled people. Respondents reflected on the inaccessible nature of the built environment, which makes it more challenging for disabled people to be evacuated safely during extreme weather events. In addition, respondents commented on the various measures that aim to reduce emissions, such as recycling initiatives, deposit return schemes, active travel and low-emission vehicles, which are often designed with limited input from disabled people. In order to address the disproportionate impact, it is essential that disabled people are fully involved in the engagement process on a local, national and international level.