This year’s United Nations global climate summit is being postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, host country the United Kingdom has said.
The most important climate summit since Paris 2015, also called COP26, was scheduled to take place in the British city of Glasgow in November. It will now be held in 2021.
British Business Minister Alok Sharma, who was also due to preside over the COP26 talks, said with countries struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, governments needed more time to prepare.
“We will continue working tirelessly with our partners to deliver the ambition needed to tackle the climate crisis,” Sharma said. “And I look forward to agreeing to a new date for the conference.”
Some 30,000 people, including 200 world leaders, were due to attend the 10-day conference.
The world is facing an unprecedented global challenge & countries are rightly focusing on fighting #COVID19.
Due to this, #COP26 has been postponed.
We will continue working with partners to deliver the ambition needed to tackle the climate crisis & agree a new date 🌍
— Alok Sharma (@AlokSharma_RDG) April 1, 2020
While the coronavirus crisis has thrown the climate talks into uncertainty, some see the delay as an advantage with the US presidential elections set for November.
UN negotiators say the postponement will allow them to assess whether they will have support in the White House after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 Paris agreement in 2017 and rolled back Obama-era environmental policies.
If the Democrats win – with either Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders as the next president – it would mean a return to negotiations for the US, the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China.
While there was broad support for the postponement of the negotiations because of the devastating effects of coronavirus, many questioned the decision.
Alden Meyer of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said events can be postponed, but climate change will not pause even for a pandemic of epic proportions.
“The response to the COVID-19 pandemic is showing that the nations of the world can come together to tackle global challenges and that the policy landscape can shift quickly when there is sufficient political will,” Meyer said.
“This should give us hope as we move forward in the fight to tackle the global crisis of climate change.”
Greenpeace International Director Jennifer Morgan said leaders should now double down on efforts to ensure a green and just way forward.
“Going back to business as usual is completely unacceptable. This pandemic shows there are huge lessons to be learned about the importance of listening to science and the need for urgent collective global action,” Morgan said.
The COP26 talks this year were expected to deliver new global targets for protecting biodiversity, but that event scheduled in China will also be delayed now.
Many experts suggest COVID-19 has a direct link with environmental degradation, deforestation and illegal wildlife trade, bringing wild animals into close contact with humans and increasing the likelihood of pandemics such as COVID-19.
They also believe that climate change will make poorer communities more vulnerable to such outbreaks.