A ‘sensible step’ and ‘opportunity to rebuild’: Green economy reacts to COP26 postponement

Green groups have expressed disappointment but understanding that the COP26 climate summit scheduled for Glasgow in November has been postponed until 2021, with many citing the opportunity for countries to accelerate climate action in the meantime.

A ‘sensible step’ and ‘opportunity to rebuild’: Green economy reacts to COP26 postponement

It is yet to be confirmed when the conference will take place in 2021

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has tonight (1 April) confirmed that the conference has been postponed due to the lockdown caused by the coronavirus. A new date will be confirmed in the coming months.

It has also been confirmed that a COP conference for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) due to be held later this year has been pushed back to October 2021.

COP26 President Sharma said: “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.”

Reaction has already come in for what is arguably a bitterly disappointing announcement considering the world is currently “well off-track” to deliver the Paris Agreement. However, responses have been understanding of the situation and some see it as an opportunity to ramp up climate action.

Read below for all the key industry reaction. (edie will update this piece as comments come in).

Dr Richard Dixon, director Friends of the Earth Scotland:

“Given the worldwide health dangers of coronavirus, it is understandable that the UN climate negotiations in Glasgow have been delayed.  Every effort must be made to save lives and protect the vulnerable who will suffer the most in this crisis. However rich countries must not use the delay in the talks to delay taking urgent action on reducing emissions and providing climate finance for developing countries. Because the climate crisis is very urgent, COP26 needs to take place in the first half of 2021 and COP27 should still happen as planned that autumn.

“The climate talks should go ahead as soon as it is safe to hold them, but it is essential that they do so on the basis that global south nations are able to fully attend and demand the action necessary to deal with the climate emergency. This means full access for global south nations, experts and activists. There is historical precedent for two sets of climate talks in one year, with two rounds of climate negotiations taking place in 2001 in Bonn and in Marrakech.”

Dr Kat Kramer, global climate lead, Christian Aid:

“The decision to delay is sensible. We don’t want to worsen the Covid-19 emergency by holding a meeting to tackle the climate emergency.  But likewise, it’s important we don’t let the response to Covid-19 undermine efforts to address the climate crisis. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that emergencies require urgent and concerted action.

“Many of the most vulnerable people in the world are already living through one emergency and climate impacts only increase this vulnerability. Countries still need to submit their enhanced climate plans by the end of the year to be in line with the scientific imperative of limiting heating increases to 1.5C. The impending economic stimulus plans being marshalled by countries must be climate-smart to ensure they don’t fix one problem by exacerbating another.”

Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive Oxfam GB:

“This pause is understandable in light of efforts to stop the pandemic we all now face. But this should not mean pausing our vital efforts to respond to a climate crisis that is already threatening lives and pushing millions of people deeper into hunger and poverty.

“The UK, as host of the summit, must keep global momentum going and cannot miss the opportunity to commit to both a just recovery and a just transition to a greener economy.

“Governments are right now showing they are ready to cooperate. They should avoid repeating the same mistakes that were made after the 2008 global financial crisis when stimulus packages caused emissions to rebound.”

Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC):

“Investors will support the decision to postpone the global climate summit as governments are rightly focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic and keeping people safe.

“A delay gives the UK hosts and other governments the ability to ensure that sufficient diplomatic momentum is generated heading into COP26. Moving the summit back improves the likelihood of a strong outcome and ensuring that the world is put on a path to tackle the climate crisis.”

Mohamed Adow, director of think tank Power Shift Africa

“The postponement of the Bonn and Glasgow meetings is a sensible step. It doesn’t make sense to bring people from every country together in the middle of a pandemic. 

“Although these postponed meetings are important they are not the entirety of climate action. Postponing them does not mean postponing climate action. Country delegations should use this extra time to ensure the economic response to Covid-19 doesn’t entrench the climate crisis, but instead accelerates the transition to a zero-carbon world.  

“Before the pandemic countries were failing to deliver quick enough emissions reductions and support for the vulnerable. This delay, combined with the economic recovery investment being devised, gives leaders the opportunity to revise their climate plans. Economies in the rich north must not be kickstarted with dirty investment that will lead to climate suffering in the global south.”

Adair Turner, senior fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)

“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

“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

“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 counties 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:

“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.”

Mark Ruskell MSP, Scottish Greens’ climate spokesperson

“While it is naturally disappointing that COP26 has now been postponed, it’s clear that it would have been almost impossible to make the necessary preparations and negotiations in the face of the current COVID19 crisis. 

“The climate and health emergencies mean that we must re-build the economy in a way that that supports people and creates new jobs in sectors that are vital for our future. That will need fresh thinking about how governments can develop a Green New Deal that intervenes and invests in the economy, creating fair work while also improving our health and wellbeing.

“When COP26 does eventually arrive in Glasgow next year I am confident that global leaders will be more determined than ever to ensure that meaningful climate action is achieved, especially if there is a new US President.”

Matt Mace

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