Maintaining Momentum

While COP26 has been postponed to 2021, the preparatory work must continue

The UN’s global climate conference, COP26, was supposed to take place in Glasgow in November 2020. But with the COVID-19 pandemic and immediate focus on how to recover from the crisis, everyone agreed to postpone the conference until next year.

Boris Johnson opening the COP26 event
04/02/2020. London, United Kingdom. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Sir David Attenborough talk to school children at the Science Museum for Launch of the UK hosting of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Picture by Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street

And although we don’t have confirmation on the new date yet, environmentalists and climate leaders are committed to keeping the momentum going for real climate action. Fiona Harvey, writing in The Guardian, says that experts want the conference to focus on the shift to a low-carbon economy rather than furthering our dependence on fossil fuels.

‘There is an opportunity in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis to create a new approach to [economic] growth that is a sustainable and resilient economy in closer harmony with the natural world.

That will be the challenge and opportunity of COP26 next year. We must use this time well.’

Nicholas Stern, a Climate Economist

This demand for just and equitable stimulus measures – for humanity and the natural world – is increasingly urgent as governments around the world are dismantling regulations and environmental protections.

Fiona references bailouts to prop up the airline industry (which is huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions) and carmakers in the EU lobbying for a ‘watering down of their emissions obligations’.

And we recently looked at the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to relax their environmental rules in America during the pandemic.

‘COP26 being put on hold should make governments double down on their efforts to ensure a green and just way forward in handling this health crisis and the climate emergency.

Going back to business as usual is completely unacceptable: this pandemic shows there are huge lessons to be learned about the importance of listening to science and the need for urgent collective global action.’

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International

Giving COP26 organisers, environmentalists and scientists time to organise effectively is one benefit to the delay. Another potential silver lining is that American may have a new president and administration by 2021. One that will hopefully bring America back into the Paris accord which was agreed at COP21.

The Paris accord saw world leaders from 197 nations agree to limit their emissions to try to keep global average temperatures below 2 degrees above pre-Industrial levels, ideally 1.5 degrees. President Trump decided to withdraw America from the Paris accord, which comes into legal effect on 4 November 2020.

‘Under the original schedule, the COP was going to be overshadowed by the US elections regardless of the outcome. The shift in schedule will allow countries to react and respond.

If a Democrat wins in November, then by the team of the COP, the US will have re-entered Paris and will be able to send a high-level political delegation, giving an important and positive boost to the talks.

And if Trump is re-elected, other countries will have had time to absorb that information by the time of the COP and know definitively that they have to move on without the US.’

Nathaniel Keohane, Senior VP at the Environmental Defense Fund

We all have a role to play in stressing the urgency of climate action at a national level.

  • Vote for politicians who take climate change seriously and then put pressure on them to support planet-friendly policies
  • Take the time to research the companies you’re buying from and use your wallet to support those that are working for social and environmental justice
  • Take part in the Fridays for the Future climate strikes online
  • Sign 350.org’s open letter in support of a #JustRecovery
Children rallying at the Ottawa Climate Strike
Children rallying at the Ottawa Climate Strike. Photo Credit: Nhattan Nguyen

‘COVID-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term. Soon, economies will restart.

This is a chance for nations to recover better, to include the most vulnerable in those plans, and a chance to shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, just, safe and more resilient.’

Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary
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