(Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic has prompted the United Nations to delay until late 2021 a crucial climate summit that had been scheduled for Britain this year, officials said on Thursday.
This year’s meeting, known as the COP26 summit, had been billed as the most important climate change summit since the 2015 talks that produced the Paris Agreement. Hundreds of world leaders had been expected to respond to public pressure for stronger global climate action by delivering pledges to slash greenhouse gas emissions more rapidly.
The summit will be rescheduled to Nov. 1 to 12, 2021, the UN’s climate body decided, dates proposed by the British government. Glasgow, Scotland will remain the host city, and there will first be a warm-up summit in Italy.
British climate official Alok Sharma said the delay would give countries more time to rebuild economies with climate change prioritized. Negotiators from bloc of less developed countries also urged governments not to use the pandemic to delay stronger climate plans, but instead to boost renewable energy, conservation and other green measures as economies recover.
European Union leaders proposed such a plan on Wednesday to tie a 750 billion euro recovery fund to climate goals.
“The postponement of the COP should not affect the resolve of countries to deliver on these commitments in 2020,” said Sonam Wangdi of Bhutan, a member of the LDC bloc.
This year’s COP26 summit was supposed to serve as a deadline for governments to commit to the more-aggressive emissions-cutting goals needed to deliver the Paris Agreement’s target to cap global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius and aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.
Current pledges put the world on track for roughly 3 degrees Celsius of warming this century. Scientists say that level would have severe consequences for sea-level rise, extreme weather events and mass migration as people flee regions where the local climate becomes uninhabitable.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett in Britain and Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and David Gregorio)