A pivotal round of global climate talks scheduled for November in Scotland has been postponed because of the coronavirus. The delay deals a blow to efforts to tackle climate change and raises questions about unanticipated obstacles to international cooperation created by the pandemic.
Rounds of preliminary talks in the lead up to the COP26 conference, one of the world’s largest diplomatic gatherings with more than 26,000 expected attendees, had become difficult as lockdowns spread around the world. A new date for the summit will be set for 2021, the United Nations said in a statement.
Pushing back the summit demonstrates how the deadly pandemic that’s hobbled financial markets and forced billions to shut themselves in at home has quickly overtaken global warming as the most pressing threat facing humanity.
“The world is currently facing an unprecedented global challenge and countries are rightly focusing their efforts on saving lives and fighting COVID-19,” Alok Sharma, the U.K.’s business secretary and the summit’s president-designate, said in the statement.
As recently as the start of this year, climate change was at the top of policy makers’ agendas. Even Big Oil executives were setting environmental targets, and executives at Davos discussed investor pressure to behave responsibly. Now leaders around the globe are focused on a single issue: how to stop the virus.
The COP26 summit, short for 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was expected to be the next major global climate conference after the 2015 Paris Agreement. It was supposed to mark the year when nations submitted long-term pollution goals to put the world on track to have emissions peak by mid-century.
The UN had already canceled or postponed face-to-face climate talks, including a meeting between China and the European Union, that were supposed to be key building blocks for the summit in November.
COP26 was scheduled to be held in Glasgow at the SEC arena. This week, the Scottish government announced the venue would be turned into a field hospital to treat virus victims.
The UN has also pushed back a climate meeting that had been scheduled for June in Bonn, Germany, until October, according to a person familiar with the situation.
“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,” UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said in the statement.
— With assistance by Tim Ross
Information taken from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-01/un-climate-conference-postponed-as-world-grapples-with-virus