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UN Climate Change Summit COP26 postponed as a result of COVID-19

Friday, April 3, 2020

In response to the announcement on Wednesday that the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, due to take place this November in Glasgow, has since been postponed until 2021 due to Covid-19, Director of the Walker Institute Prof Rosalind Cornforth had this to say:

“It is of course disappointing that COP26 has been postponed until 2021. This COP was intended to be a significant milestone for ramping up ambitions for emissions reductions, after 5 years of intricate negotiations towards ironing out the Paris Agreement. However, this decision is the right one. The Covid-19 pandemic poses a huge threat to us all and public health and safety must come first.

Furthermore, for an effective and truly ambitious COP the UK Government would have needed to conduct continuous diplomatic negotiations throughout the year, which is not possible in the current pandemic. Postponing the COP provides time for these negotiations to take place and for several key particulars of the Paris Agreement to be discussed prior to COP26. Depending on the postponement date in 2021, the sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may be published before COP26. Given the impact that the IPCC report on 1.5°C of warming had, this latest report has the potential to stimulate global aspiration and action. Diplomatic opportunities to build momentum next year also include the G7 and G20 summits, hosted by the UK and Italy respectively, with slightly more breathing space following the outcome of the US Presidential election in November 2020.

Ultimately, governments must not use this postponement as an excuse to take the foot off the accelerator on climate action. 2020 is still a significant year for updating countries Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and ramping up ambition under the Paris Agreement. As we witness ecosystems recover and emissions decline during this period of self-isolation, this additional time before COP26 should be used to reassess our lifestyles and approaches to working. Creative alternatives to conferences and distance learning now in place should not be forgotten as we all try to curb our air miles and greenhouse gas emissions.

Governments responding to Covid-19 should build economic stimulus packages which deliver for the climate and focus on supporting the most vulnerable, many of whom are already under climate-stress. Lessons on effective, evidence-based global action can be learnt from the current Covid-19 crisis. Let’s hope the global community comes out of this crisis with a renewed confidence that we can work together to tackle the biggest challenge facing our planet and future generations – the climate crisis.”