Key UN climate summit postponed amid coronavirus pandemic

2 April 2020, 07:34

The SEC Centre in Glasgow
The SEC Centre in Glasgow which is due to host the talks is being turned into a temporary hospital (Andrew Milligan/PA). Picture: PA

The Cop26 talks were due to be held in Glasgow in November.

Key international climate talks due to take place in the UK in November have been postponed until next year, it has been announced.

The Cop26 meeting was set to take place at Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus – which is being turned into a temporary Covid-19 field hospital – from November 9 to 20.

But an announcement from the UN’s climate body, the UNFCCC, and the UK Government said the summit would be pushed back to 2021 in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision to postpone was taken by the UNFCCC with the UK and its Italian partners in hosting Cop26, with dates in 2021 set out after further discussion.

UK Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma said: “The world is currently facing an unprecedented global challenge and countries are rightly focusing their efforts on saving lives and fighting Covid-19. That is why we have decided to reschedule Cop26.

“We will continue working tirelessly with our partners to deliver the ambition needed to tackle the climate crisis and I look forward to agreeing a new date for the conference.”

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said: “Covid-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term.

“Soon, economies will restart. This is a chance for nations to recover better, to include the most vulnerable in those plans, and a chance to shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, just, safe and more resilient.”

A mid-year UN climate meeting scheduled for June in Bonn, Germany, which would have laid groundwork for the November talks, has been delayed to October.

Cop26 is the most important round of talks since the global Paris Agreement to tackle climate change was secured in 2015.

This year marks the date by which countries are expected to come forward with stronger emissions cuts to meet the goals of the deal.

Plans submitted so far put the world on a pathway towards more than 3C of warming, though the Paris Agreement commits countries to curb temperatures to 1.5C or 2C above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

But with countries around the world grappling with coronavirus, and many putting citizens in lockdown, governments are prioritising the immediate global health crisis.

Holding an “ambitious, inclusive” meeting in November was no longer possible, and rescheduling would allow countries to focus on climate and allow more time for preparations, the UN and the UK said.

Dates for key international meetings addressing declines in wildlife are also being shifted due to the pandemic.

Climate campaigners said the delay to Cop26 was sensible and unavoidable, but warned the response to Covid-19 should not undermine efforts to address the climate crisis.

Economic stimulus packages to help countries recover from the pandemic need to tackle climate change, they urged.

Christian Aid’s global climate lead Kat Kramer said: “Many of the most vulnerable people in the world are already living through one emergency and climate impacts only increase this vulnerability.

“Countries still need to submit their enhanced climate plans by the end of year to be in line with the scientific imperative of limiting heating increases to 1.5C.”

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said that while the summit has been delayed, the climate emergency could not be put on hold.

“The government stimulus packages will hold the key to whether this emergency significantly delays or advances progress on tackling the climate emergency.”

He warned that neither Covid-19 nor the climate and nature emergencies could be solved without governments, scientists and civil society working together.

Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director of the business group CBI, said postponing the meeting was “disappointing but unavoidable”, and all efforts must be made to tackle the disease, save lives and protect livelihoods.

“But the climate crisis will not pause for this health crisis. When the virus subsides, Cop26 will be more important than ever to catalyse fast, decisive action and build a sustainable, global economy,” he said.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “A disappointing decision, but absolutely the right one as we all focus on the fight against #coronavirus. We look forward to welcoming the world to Glasgow in 2021 #COP26.”

By Press Association

Happening Now