Critical climate meetings across the globe are being cancelled or postponed in the weeks ahead in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic could also delay the rollout of at least one major emissions reduction program.
While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) went ahead with a meeting in Paris last month, “the IPCC has scuttled its next formal gathering slated for mid-April,” reports Scientific American. Plans are now in the works to allow for virtual attendance by the 250 people who would have travelled to Quito, Ecuador for the event.
Any future travel plans for IPCC staff are now being reviewed by the organization’s secretariat “on a case by case basis,” said spokesperson Melissa Gomis.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), meanwhile, is “weighing what to do about a series of regional climate negotiations meant to strengthen UN member states’ Nationally Determined Contributions toward lowering greenhouse gas emissions,” Scientific American notes—including the round of talks that had been set to take place in Kampala, Uganda at the end of April.
Of particular concern is that a lack of quorum due to last-minute cancellations or no-shows “hinders decision-making capacity at the meetings,” warned UN climate secretary Patricia Espinosa, in a letter to delegates. The UNFCCC is currently working to redress this problem through virtual meetings, or postponement.
Postponement is the order of the day for the London-based International Maritime Organization, whose Scientific Group and Legal Committee were supposed to meet later this month “to discuss a number of issues, including possible greenhouse gas regulations for the global shipping sector,” says the news report.
COVID-19 also threatens to delay the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), a launch that was to be preceded by five regional consultation meetings through March and April. While “the agency has not formally delayed or cancelled any of them yet,” it “has warned interested participants to plan for interruptions,” says Scientific American. The temporary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions caused by worldwide flight cancellations this year could also force a toughening of airlines’ carbon offset targets under CORSIA.
Speaking with reporters at UN headquarters in New York, Secretary-General António Guterres described both the pandemic and climate change as “very serious problems,” requiring “a determined response” by governments and international institutions. “All the attention that needs to be given to fight this disease does not distract us from the need to defeat climate change,” he added.
Rallying to both causes, #FridaysforFuture founder Greta Thunberg urged her fellow climate campaigners to abide by the directives of health professionals and engage in “digital strikes,” rather than mass rallies, in solidarity with efforts to “flatten the curve” on the pandemic, reports Deutsche Welle. “We young people are the least affected by this virus, but it’s essential that we act in solidarity with the most vulnerable and that we act in the best interest of our common society,” she tweeted to her four million supporters. “So keep your numbers low but your spirits high and let’s take one week at the time.”