Britain has announced that the next UN climate conference, originally planned for Glasgow in November, will be delayed a full year, to November 1-12, 2021.
“Given the uneven spread of COVID-19, this date would present the lowest risk of further postponement and the best chance of delivering an inclusive and ambitious COP,” Britain wrote earlier this week, in its role as COP 26 host and co-chair. That decision was endorsed Thursday during a virtual meeting of the 11-member COP Bureau, the rotating governing body for the UN climate secretariat.
The UK letter also described the economic recovery from the pandemic as “an opportunity to build more sustainable and inclusive economies and societies.”
UN climate secretary Patricia Espinosa reinforced that point in a statement on the UN Climate website. “Our efforts to address climate change and COVID-19 are not mutually exclusive,” she said. “If done right, the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis can steer us to a more inclusive and sustainable climate path. We honour those whom we have lost by working with renewed commitment and continuing to demonstrate leadership and determination in addressing climate change, and building a safe, clean, just, and resilient world.”
Since its last meeting in April, the bureau has seen “several initiatives launched in order to drive momentum, showcase continuing climate action, and urge greater climate ambition from all segments of society,” the UN Climate release notes. That includes a series of online events June 1-10, tagged June Momentum for Climate Change, which will offer “an opportunity for Parties and other stakeholders to continue exchanging views and sharing information in order to maintain momentum in the UNFCCC process and to showcase how climate action is progressing under the special circumstances the world is currently facing.”
Topics on the Momentum agenda include finance and investments for a sustainable recovery, support for least-developed countries, Paris Agreement implementation and compliance, effective delivery of needs-based climate finance, climate adaptation, gender and climate change, and the status of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which embody countries’ climate commitments under the Paris deal and were to be strengthened by the end of this year.
The New York Times says some climate diplomats are concerned the 12-month postponement will mean lost momentum on the crucial effort to implement the Paris Agreement and accelerate the response to the climate crisis. The delay “could encourage countries and international financial institutions to enact economic recovery plans without paying much heed to their climate implications,” the Times writes. But “if the climate talks take place sooner, said Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, the energy and environment minister for Costa Rica, government leaders will feel more pressure to align their stimulus packages with sustainability goals.”
“We’re losing time,” Rodríguez told the Times. “If there are no strings attached to international aid and national recovery plans, we may be in a very difficult spot. Having a COP soon would help influence global recovery plans.”