Sustainable Energy

COP26 climate change conference postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus

Key Points
  • The COP26 summit was set to be hosted by the U.K. this November.
  •  Coming five years after the landmark COP21 summit in Paris, the talks in 2020 were viewed as being especially important.
Boris Johnson (R) and conservationist David Attenborough attending an event to launch the COP26 climate summit. The summit has now been postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus.
Jeremy Selwyn | AFP | Getty Images

A major UN climate change conference due to take place in November has been postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The COP26 summit was set to be hosted by the U.K. at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, Scotland, with over 30,000 people expected to attend.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the U.K. government said new dates for the conference would be "set out in due course" following talks.

"In light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible," the government added.

In a sign of how things have changed in recent months, the SEC is now being converted into a temporary medical facility to provide support to NHS Scotland.

Coming five years after the landmark COP21 summit in Paris, where world leaders committed to making sure global warming stayed "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the Glasgow talks were viewed as being especially important.

It was at Paris that countries also agreed to "pursue efforts" to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), made national pledges to reduce or curb greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030. UNEP adds that governments at COP26 were set to review pledges made in 2015 for the first time.

The above will now be put on hold. Reacting to the developments, John Sauven, Greenpeace U.K.'s executive director, said in a statement that the decision to postpone the Glasgow talks was "inevitable given the health emergency the world is currently facing."

"It's during moments of crisis like this that what is possible starts to dramatically shift," Sauven went on to add. "The health of the planet and individual health need to be looked at as a whole. The pandemic has clearly shown that we are all affected and that we can only solve these challenges if we act together as a global community."

Richard Dixon, who is director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said that "given the worldwide health dangers of coronavirus" it was "understandable" that the climate negotiations in Glasgow had been delayed.

"Every effort must be made to save lives and protect the vulnerable who will suffer the most in this crisis," he said.

"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."

Describing the climate crisis as "very urgent," Dixon said COP26 needed to take place in the first half of 2021 and that "COP27 should still happen as planned that autumn."