This year’s annual United Nations climate conference (COP26) was officially postponed until 2021, a decision made on April 1 by the COP Bureau of the UNFCCC, in consultation with the United Kingdom and Italy, due to concerns over the coronavirus COVID-19 . The conference was originally scheduled to take place from November 9 to 19 in Glasgow, Scotland.
“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,” said COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma.
The UN Climate Change meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies (SB52) will also be postponed until October 4 to 12, 2020.
The decision was a disappointing but necessary step to fight the pandemic. COP26 is expected to be critical for increasing climate ambition as nations begin submitting their updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
The decision comes as some nations have already begun using the pandemic as an excuse to scale back environmental protections rather than ramping up climate ambition. The United States is overturning an Obama-era policy on fuel-efficiency standards, moving ahead with massive fossil fuel lease sales and relaxing its enforcement of environmental laws. Brazil is scaling back its enforcement of environmental crimes, even as yet another indigenous land defender in the country is murdered.
The threat that COVID-19 poses to the world does not mean we have the luxury of sweeping the climate crisis under the rug. We must use this current crisis to increase climate action, and the coronavirus presents a unique opportunity to do so. Stimulus packages can seek to boost national economies in shambles from the COVID-19 outbreak while simultaneously transitioning to a less carbon-intensive economy.
“The postponement of the COP does mean a postponement of climate ambition,” said Tasneem Essop, Executive Director of Climate Action Network – International. “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 their societies.”
With time running out to address the climate crisis, we must use this moment to increase climate ambition rather than postpone any meaningful climate action until COP26.