Coronavirus: COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow postponed for a year

The UN summit on tackling climate change meant to be held in Britain this winter has been postponed because of coronavirus.

The gathering of world leaders – known as COP26 – was due to be the biggest the UK has ever hosted, taking place over four days in November in Glasgow.

Around 30,000 delegates including politicians, climate experts and campaigners had planned to attend to agree new co-ordinated plans to tackle climate change.

The conference has been pushed back to 2021 following a decision by the UN’s convention on climate change and the UK, but no specific date named.

Plans for it had been put on the backburner for some weeks, as governments around the world diverted resources to fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Preparatory meetings due to be held by officials from across the world were cancelled, in Columbia and Germany, due to international travel shutting down.

A minister involved in the preparations told Sky News: “Even if the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted by November, it’s an international negotiation, and if none of the preparatory meetings can go ahead you are negotiating blind.”

UK officials from the business department are understood to have been diverted to other tasks, as speculation mounted that the summit would have to be cancelled.

Sky News understands that the budget for the event, for which the UK holds the rotating presidency, is £350 million – of which around half had been committed to venues.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres earlier this year called 2020 “a pivotal year for how we address climate change”.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma was put in charge of organising the conference in February’s cabinet reshuffle.

He said countries battling COVID-19 are “rightly focusing their efforts on saving lives” so “that is why we have decided to reschedule COP26”.

“We will continue working tirelessly with our partners to deliver the ambition needed to tackle the climate,” he added.

Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate change executive secretary, said 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”.

She added: “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.”

Greenpeace said the delay “was inevitable given the health emergency the world is currently facing”.

But it added in a statement that “while the summit has been delayed, the climate emergency can’t be put on hold”.

“It’s during moments of crisis like this that what is possible starts to dramatically shift,” the environmental group said.

“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. Neither the pandemic nor the climate crisis stops at national borders.”

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