Comment on COP26 postponement

UN climate change conference set to take place in Glasgow in November postponed due to COVID-19

By George Smeeton

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Commenting on the news that this years UN climate summit (COP26), which was due to be held in the UK in November, is to be postponed, Adair Turner, Senior Fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), said: “Postponing this year’s UN climate summit is the right decision for both the UK and countries around the world struggling with the coronavirus pandemic. This crisis has to be the priority, and every effort must go to supporting people in the frontline of coping with the virus.

“The pandemic will also reorder to an extent the priorities for COP26, as alongside the UN climate process countries will be devising stimulus packages for economies hard-hit by the crisis. Clearly, governments around the world have an opportunity to craft support for a range of sectors, from energy to industry and transport, that promotes the transition to a low-carbon economy that member states are already committed to.

“With low-carbon stimulus as a new priority for COP26, it should be seen as an opportunity to rebuild economies hit by coronavirus in ways that are healthier, more resilient to future shocks and fairer to a wider range of people.”

Professor Joanna Haigh, Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Physics, Imperial College London said:

“The current pandemic has shown that concerted international action, vital for protecting people’s lives and livelihoods, is possible in the face of a global threat.

“Our hearts go out to those suffering right now, but with the postponement of COP26 governments must not lose sight of the ongoing global crisis that is climate change, which also threatens people’s way of life around the world. Although the current suspension of much economic life will lead to a temporary slowdown in emissions, experience suggests levels will bounce back without action to address them.

“Once countries are able to look beyond the pandemic, therefore, a concerted international effort to reduce emissions and prevent climate catastrophe will be necessary, feasible and urgent.”

Camilla Toulmin, Senior Associate IIED said:

“Postponing COP26, while disappointing, is necessary in the face of a pandemic which is devastating the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world. It will give more time for a better-considered UK Presidency, which recognizes with a new urgency our close global connections and need to work together with neighbours, near and far.

“We must also remember that people in the least developed countries are the most vulnerable and least able to cope with the threats of both coronavirus and climate change, and will need help in the face of both of these threats.

“We should hope therefore that this breathing space for COP26 can lead to a renewed commitment to find the funds necessary for building climate resilience across the world, long-promised to poorer countries by richer ones, and that people and their leaders will have a new appreciation of common futures and the challenges which pull us together.”

Professor Michael Grubb, Professor of International Energy and Climate Change Policy, UCL said:

“The decision to defer COP26 is a wise move. Major UN conferences require in-depth preparations that are scarcely possible now given the continuing and still-globalising COVID19 pandemic.

“At the same time, the crisis reminds us of the need to heed scientific warnings and projections, and of the - perhaps unexpected - vulnerability of even the strongest societies. It also shows the scale and speed of response that is possible when societies really face up to such risks.

“Deferring COP26 will offer an opportunity for the world to take stock of the lessons, and also to integrate better with the global Biodiversity summit, to start a new chapter in tackling the threats to the planetary systems on which we all ultimately depend.”