– Groups, WRI hail decision, urge strong national commitments
As the coronavirus pandemic escalates, the United Nation climate change conference (COP26) set to take place in Glasgow in November has been postponed.
This decision was taken by the COP Bureau of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), with the United Kingdom and its Italian partners.
UN officials noted that details for a rescheduled conference in 2021, hosted in Glasgow by the UK in partnership with Italy, will be set out in due course following further discussion with parties.
According to the official, the rescheduling will ensure all parties can focus on the issues to be discussed at this vital conference and allow more time for the necessary preparations to take place. “We will continue to work with all involved to increase climate ambition, build resilience and lower emissions.”
COP26 President-Designate and UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 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.”
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary 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.
“In the meantime, we continue to support and to urge nations to significantly boost climate ambition in line with the Paris Agreement.”
Italian Minister for the Environment, Land and Sea Protection, Sergio Costa, said: “Whilst we have decided to postpone COP26, including the Pre-COP and ‘Youth for the Climate’ event, we remain fully committed to meeting the challenge of climate change.
“Tackling climate change requires strong, global and ambitious action. Participation from the younger generations is imperative, and we are determined to host the ‘Youth for the Climate’ event, together with the Pre-COP and outreach events.
“We will continue to work with our British partners to deliver a successful COP26.”
COP25 President, Minister Carolina Schmidt, said: “The decision of the Bureau on the postponement of COP26 is, unfortunately, a needed measure to protect all delegates and observers.
“Our determination is to make sure that the momentum for climate ambition will continue, particularly for the preparation and submissions of new NDCs this year”.
In a statement, the President and CEO, World Resources Institute, from Andrew Steer, noted that “Shifting the timing of the UN climate summit was no doubt a difficult decision, but it is also the right one. In the face of this unprecedented health crisis, the world needs to rally together to fight the virus and help those most vulnerable to the economic fallout.
“In the face of a health emergency and the climate crisis, we cannot afford to tackle one or the other. We must do both. The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a tragic reminder that global risks require collective action. Leaders need to work together to identify and prepare early for such risks, share information, and mobilize resources to make their own citizens and others safer and healthier.
“As countries move forward with their revised national climate plans and set new commitments under the Paris Agreement, it is critically important that they take the necessary time to adjust to the current situation while also aiming to achieve the highest possible ambition. Strong climate action is as urgent as ever. A number of countries – particularly the smaller, developing economies – have already shown leadership and announced they will come forward with enhanced plans.
“These are extremely welcome. But now we need more of the large economies to step-up to the plate and set more ambitious targets. These national climate plans should not be disconnected from the recovery, but instead should be an integral part of national efforts to create jobs, boost growth, reduce health risks, and build more resilient economies.
“Leaders should commit to helping devastated communities to build back better, taking every opportunity to make people, our economies and communities safer and stronger. This includes investing in low-carbon technologies and better preparing for future shocks of all kinds. If done right, investing now in low-carbon infrastructure and solutions can boost employment, deliver higher productivity, and higher added value to the economy than traditional, polluting and carbon-intensive activities.
“Business leaders and the finance sector are already waking up to the economic benefits of low-carbon and resilient investments, and the risks of the alternatives. Governments should follow their lead and seize this moment to make a more decisive shift toward climate-smart, resilient growth that will benefit all people and the global economy.
“We look to the United Nations and the UK government to move forward with arrangements and take steps soon to set a date for COP26. We encourage them to set a new date as early as possible in 2021, as they continue to mobilize global support behind climate action. Our hearts are with those affected by the global pandemic and we must band together to create a safer and stronger world for everyone.”
Executive Director, Climate Action Network (CAN), Tasneem Essop, said: “Under these circumstances, we acknowledge the necessity to postpone the Bonn climate session and COP26 to 2021.
“This does not let governments off the hook- we will continue to hold them accountable to deliver renewed climate ambition for the equitable and just transformation of societies. If there is anything that this Covid19 crisis has taught us, it is that now more than ever we need sustained international efforts to build a safe and resilient future.”
According to Mohamed Adow, Director of think tank Power Shift Africa, “the postponement is a sensible step. It doesn’t make sense to bring people from every country together in the middle of a pandemic. Although these postponed meetings are important they are not the entirety of climate action. Postponing them does not mean postponing climate action.
“Country delegations should use this extra time to ensure the economic response to COVID-19 doesn’t entrench the climate crisis but instead accelerates the transition to a zero-carbon world. Before the pandemic countries were failing to deliver quick enough emissions reductions and support for the vulnerable. This delay, combined with the economic recovery investment being devised, gives leaders the opportunity to revise their climate plans. Economies in the rich north must not be kickstarted with a dirty investment that will lead to climate suffering in the global south.”
Reacting, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy practice, noted, “Our collective priority must be to put health and lives first which is why we must treat COVID-19 seriously.
“But climate action must remain a non-negotiable global priority. That means we must also focus on creating low-carbon job opportunities and increasing our societies’ economic and ecological resilience. This means countries must continue their work to step up ambition to tackle the climate crisis in a socially fair way, by decarbonizing economies and energy systems, increasing nature-based solutions and addressing unsustainable agriculture and deforestation, including through any economic recovery effort.”