CAN response to the postponement of COP26 to 2021

At the start of last month, Climate Action Network International (CAN) released a response by its members to the news of the postponement of COP26, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, which was due to be held in November in Glasgow. They emphasise the need to keep focused on the climate crisis during this period and urge governments to use the current situation as a chance to change our global systems and build safer, greener, and more equal futures.

By D Parthasarathy on April 2, 2020 (see here)

Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network:
“At this moment, all our efforts are focused on fighting the Covid19 pandemic. Governments must prioritise the health, safety and jobs of their citizens. Under these circumstances, we acknowledge the necessity to postpone the Bonn climate session to later this year and COP26 to 2021.

“Let us remember this pandemic is taking place against the backdrop of an ecological crisis- one that threatens the lives of millions of people and will exacerbate the risks we already face. Just like a fast-spreading virus, climate change has no regard for borders. If one country is not safe, no country is safe. The postponement of the climate talks does not mean a postponement of climate ambition. This does not let governments off the hook — we will continue to hold them accountable to deliver renewed climate ambition for the equitable and just transformation of societies. If there is anything that this Covid19 crisis has taught us, it is that now more than ever we need sustained international efforts to build a safe and resilient future.”

Mohamed Adow, Director, Power Shift Africa:
“The postponement of the Bonn meeting and subsequent adjustment to the COP26 date is a sensible step. It doesn’t make sense to bring people from every country together in the middle of a pandemic. Although these postponed meetings are important they are not the entirety of climate action. Postponing them does not mean postponing climate action. Country delegations should use this extra time to ensure the economic response to Covid-19 doesn’t entrench the climate crisis, but instead accelerates the transition to a zero carbon world. Before the pandemic countries were failing to deliver quick enough emissions reductions and support for the vulnerable. This delay, combined with the economic recovery investment being devised, gives leaders the opportunity to revise their climate plans. Economies in the rich north must not be kickstarted with dirty investment that will lead to climate suffering in the global south.”

Anna Vickerstaff, Senior UK Campaigner,
“While the pandemic has forced international climate diplomacy to drastically slow down, climate action must remain high on the political agenda this year. The coronavirus outbreak is throwing into sharp relief how the current system is failing the most vulnerable and generating multiple crises, including climate breakdown. Social justice, community-led solutions, equity and workers’ rights must be at the centre of any government actions to tackle both these crises.”

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader, WWF International Climate & Energy Practice:
“Under the circumstances, the decision to postpone both the annual mid-year UN climate negotiations and COP26, is unavoidable. Our collective priority must be to put health and lives first which is why we must treat COVID-19 seriously.

“But climate action must remain a non-negotiable global priority. That means we must also focus on creating low-carbon job opportunities and increasing our societies’ economic and ecological resilience. This means countries must continue their work to step up ambition to tackle the climate crisis in a socially fair way, by decarbonizing economies and energy systems, increasing nature-based solutions and addressing unsustainable agriculture and deforestation, including through any economic recovery effort. It is especially vital that countries align all recovery and stimulus packages with climate science.

“There are important and specific opportunities for job creation in the net-zero economy in labour intensive sectors such as digital infrastructure, insulation and energy efficiency, sustainable public transport, solar PV deployment in cities and ecosystem restoration, among others.

“The current alarming situation we are facing also underlines the need for urgent action to halt the imminent loss of lives from the climate crisis and to rebalance our relationship with nature. We are all on this planet together. Countries are stronger working together, and international cooperation based on creating socially, economically and ecologically resilient societies is the best option to resolve present and future crises such as COVID-19 and the global climate crisis.”

Harjeet Singh, Global Climate Lead, ActionAid:
“Climate disasters won’t stop for the Covid-19 crisis. But we can’t address the climate emergency if distracted governments adopt half-measures in order to stick to a schedule. Current climate plans put the world on track for a catastrophic 3 or 4 degrees of warming. In these uncertain times, a postponement of COP26 gives governments more time to increase their climate pledges.

“The coronavirus outbreak will hit the poorest and most marginalised the hardest, those who are already facing food shortages and who are on the frontline of the climate crisis.

“But the pandemic also proves that if there is political will, dramatic actions can be taken, trillions of dollars can be mobilised and people will accept inconvenience and strong government interventions, if it means protecting millions of lives. It shows the level of ambition that must be applied to the climate emergency.”

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International:
“The Covid-19 response has to be resilient for our health and climate. The goal of governments now is to care for their citizens, stabilise and rebuild — and they must do so in a way that creates a just and climate-safe world, because environmental health and our own well-being are dependent on each other. 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.”

For more reactions from CAN member organisations see here