climate change

The climate crisis on hold as COP26 is postponed


Image credit: GOV.UK.

By Anders Lorenzen

Due to the ongoing and worsening impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, the need to postpone the crucial UN climate summit COP26 had become inevitable. With many starting to gear up for this outcome, on Wednesday 1st April it was announced that the summit, planned to be held in Glasgow, the UK in November, has been officially postponed.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government jointly made the decision. The summit was set to be the most crucial UN climate summit since COP21 in Paris in 2015 where the Paris Agreement was signed.

No new date has yet been set but it is unlikely to be before 2021. 

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, said that the delay will give countries more time to increase their ambitions: “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. In the meantime, we continue to support and to urge nations to significantly boost climate ambition in line with the Paris Agreement.”

While the COP26 President, UK’s Business 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 on a new date for the conference.” 

Additionally, a UN biodiversity summit which was due to take place in October in Kunming, China has also been pushed back to next year

The COP26 summit was set to be a key summit, as it was the last chance for countries to put forward tough emission cuts through the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC).

Professor of Carbon Management & Education at the University of Edinburgh, Dave Reay, told A greener life, a greener world that we must not drop the urgency in tackling climate change: “Postponing COP26 is understandable given the turmoil all nations are enduring. COP26 was (and still is) all about getting the world back on track for meeting the Paris Climate Goals. It was about increasing ambition and agreeing on the way forward on climate change over the next decade and beyond. That way forward is now shrouded in the deadly mist that is COVID-19. Yet climate change and the huge threats it poses have not gone away.” 

David Reay said that while COP26 is postponed, climate change is continuing regardless and so must our efforts to combat it: “Global temperatures and sea levels will continue to rise, extreme weather events will get even more extreme. Yes, COP26 has been postponed. This must not mean action on climate change is also postponed. With every delayed action or misspent dollar of economic stimulus the risks posed by climate change grow further.

If the government recovery packages being put in place around the world today are not green, then the future looks blacker than ever. Yet many are overtly recognising the need for sustainability and resilience to be embedded in such investments, to avoid the mistakes made after the 2008 financial crisis and think long term. These are bleak times for us all, but Glasgow, and COP26 when it happens, can still be the port in this global storm we all need.”

As much of the global economy is in lockdown due to the outbreak, emissions have also been declining. But many are warning that once this crisis ends the economy and emissions will fire back up. Advocates and policymakers are arguing that once the economic activity fully starts up again it should be on a green and not fossil fuel-based trajectory. 


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