The COP26 UN climate summit in Scotland was postponed until 2021 as organisers admitted Covid-19 is the world’s immediate focus – but predicted the green agenda will be central to the post-virus rebuilding process.
The conference – seen as the most crucial since Paris in 2015 to shaping the world’s future climate emergency response – was due to be staged in November, but the current repurposing of its planned venue in Glasgow as a Covid-19 hospital starkly illustrates the world’s temporary change in priorities.
Co-hosts the UK and Italy said it will be rescheduled in 2021, with an exact date still to be fixed.
UN Climate Change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa 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.
“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.”
Espinosa’s words foreshadow what’s likely to be a very different economic backdrop to the summit than originally expected.
Policymakers planning to rebuild shattered economies will face huge pressure to put the energy transition at the heart of their strategies – and equally strong calls from other quarters to funnel support to ‘core’ industries, even if their environmental credentials are dubious.
That debate is already underway in the EU, where green advocates and climate sceptics are involved in a war of words over the best way forwards.