Activist Greta Thunberg to skip U.N. climate conference in Scotland

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FILE PHOTO: Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg attends a rally called Fridays for Future as part of the Global Day of Climate Action, in Stockholm

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Climate activist Greta Thunberg said she will not go to the United Nations climate conference due to be held in Scotland in November over concerns that inequality of access to COVID-19 vaccines will leave many countries unable to attend.

"Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis," the 18-year-old Thunberg said on Twitter.

"If people can't be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally, that's undemocratic and would worsen the problem."

Thunberg hit out at nations she said were unwilling to share vaccines with those that have little access to the drugs.

"Of course I would love to attend the Glasgow #COP26," she tweeted. "But not unless everyone can take part on the same terms. Right now many countries are vaccinating healthy young people, often at the expense of risk groups and frontline workers (mainly from global south, as usual...)"

She was referring to Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Pacific islands and developing countries in Asia and the Middle East.

Thunberg shot to fame in 2018 when she began a solitary protest against global warming outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, skipping her Friday school classes to demand her government take action on climate change.

Within months, more than two million students in 135 countries had set up their own picket lines, joining Thunberg's "School strike for the climate" campaign.

Speaking to the BBC for a documentary series, Thunberg said the Glasgow conference, due to run Nov. 1-12, should be postponed.

The gathering, formally known as the U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties, has already been pushed back by a year due to the global pandemic.

"This needs to happen in the right way. Of course, the best thing to do would be to get everyone vaccinated as soon as possible so that everyone could take part (in the conference) on the same terms," Thunberg said.

A delay, however, should not put off urgent action on climate, she said. "We don't have to wait for conferences nor anyone or anything else to dramatically start reducing our (greenhouse gas) emissions. Solidarity and action can start today."

(Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Mark Heinrich)