Governments are expected to take stronger action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the United Nations climate summit that is now postponed to November 2021

Glasgow will host the climate summit in November next year (Photo by Hamish Irvine)

Glasgow will host the climate summit in November next year (Photo by Hamish Irvine)

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread globally, the United Nations has announced that the annual climate change conference that was due to be held in Glasgow in November this year will be postponed a full year to November 2021.

The Bureau of the Conference of the Parties, with the UK and its Italian partners, agreed new dates for the summit, also known as COP26, which will now take place in Glasgow between November 1 and 12, 2021, the UN said in a statement. The conference was originally set to take place in November 2020 but had been postponed due to Covid-19. See: Countries get more time to improve climate plans

COP26 is billed as the most important climate talks since the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement because national governments are expected to deliver more ambitious pledges to cut down greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change that keeps gathering pace, despite the blip in emissions due to the lockdowns forced by Covid-19. The Paris pact aims to to cap global temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius, with the ambition to restrict it to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times.

“The postponement of climate negotiations should not be taken as postponement of climate action,” said Sonam P. Wangdi of Bhutan, who leads the group of least developed countries at the summit. “Covid-19 may have put many things on pause, but it hasn’t slowed climate change or paused climate impacts. From floods in East Africa to Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh, for the least developed countries, the climate crisis is a daily reality. Scaled up action to address climate change remains urgent.”

The delay would give countries more time to rebuild economies, Britain’s top climate official Alok Sharma said. “While we rightly focus on fighting the immediate crisis of the Coronavirus, we must not lose sight of the huge challenges of climate change,” he said in a statement. “The steps we take to rebuild our economies will have a profound impact on our societies’ future sustainability, resilience and wellbeing and COP26 can be a moment where the world unites behind a clean resilient recovery.”

The current commitments to reduce emissions has put the world on track to a rise of about 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, which scientists say will have catastrophic consequences due to stronger heat waves, more erratic rainfall, lower farm yields, more severe and more frequent storms, floods and droughts, total die-off of coral reefs and sea level rise engulfing vast tracts along all coasts.

“Between now and November 2021 we will take advantage of every international opportunity to increase ambition and mobilisation,” said Sergio Costa, environment minister of Italy, which is partnering Britain to host the Glasgow summit.

“Our efforts to address climate change and Covid-19 are not mutually exclusive,” UN Climate Change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa said. “If done right, the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis can steer us to a more inclusive and sustainable climate path.”

“It is good to have clarity on the dates of the next UN climate change meeting,” said Ajay Mathur, director general of the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). “It will give countries time to respond to the pandemic, pursuing recovery measures that build-in greater resilience whilst accelerating the clean energy transition. It is our hope that having dealt with the health crisis, governments the world over will be ready and motivated to drive forward climate action on the global stage.”

“COP26 has been postponed, but climate disasters are rapidly intensifying and climate action cannot be delayed,” Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate at ActionAid International, said in a statement. “With COP26 delayed for a year, governments must use this time to ramp up their national plans to reduce emissions and climate proof their agriculture. This is our opportunity to strengthen climate action by building resilience to climate change into responses to the Covid-19 crisis.”

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