Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

COP26 delay: opportunity or disaster?

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Climate
COP26 delay: opportunity or disaster?
07 Apr
2020
Marco Magrini analyses the implications of the COP26 delay

Now that the 2020 UN Climate Change Summit has been postponed, a huge question arises: how bad will it be for the environment? COP26, as the meeting is colloquially called, was originally scheduled to be held in Glasgow in November but it is now clear that the ongoing pandemic would have jeopardised – eight months from now – the attendance of representatives from all of the 194 countries required to vote unanimously. At the same time, COP26 was expected to be the most important climate powwow since 2015, when the Paris Agreement was signed – every country was due to raise emission-cutting ambitions.

Stay connected with the Geographical newsletter!
signup buttonIn these turbulent times, we’re committed to telling expansive stories from across the globe, highlighting the everyday lives of normal but extraordinary people. Stay informed and engaged with Geographical.

Get Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday!

Today, the fast-moving Covid-19 crisis has produced an abrupt fall in air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and energy demand – the quintessential targets of climate action. A worsening of the much longer-term climate crisis though, was intended to be prevented through advance planning, technological deployment and sound investments. Will one crisis benefit (or curse) the other?

‘There is an opportunity in the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis to create a new approach to growth that is sustainable, inclusive and resilient,’ argued Lord Nicholas Stern, adviser to the UK COP26 presidency and author of the famous 2006 Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change. From a logical, rational and scientific point of view, he is right to add that: ‘Now is the time to forge a new internationalism and move from this crisis to a much more sustainable economy in closer harmony with the natural world.’ Unfortunately, at this very moment, logical and scientific points of view are being disregarded on a daily basis, by leaders elected in democratic nations, keen on promoting nationalism. The exact opposite of internationalism is happening. Strange as it sounds, autocratic China has been showing much more support for international cooperation than, say, the United States.

With this in mind, as many environmentalists have remarked, a positive side to the postponement is that COP26 will no longer be so close to the US presidential elections. The climate summit was scheduled to end on 19 November, a day before the US polls are due to open. The chance, just the chance, of having the next summit under a new president is seen by some as a fortuitous event. Having more time to prepare for COP26 is also considered beneficial. Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London, said that the postponement was a ‘blessing in disguise’ as the UK government was not at all ready to lead the November negotiations: ‘Now we have time to prepare properly and learn lessons from the unprecedented global response to Covid-19 to how best to deal with climate change.’

This suggests that the pandemic may really have the power to change the global mindset. Is it true or not? The opportunity is there, but much depends on how prolonged, harsh and deadly the crisis turns out to be.

According to early predictions, the 26th ‘Conference of Parties’, will be held in early 2021, presumably with COP27 still taking place in the autumn. If, by next spring, the Covid-19 crisis has been subdued to the point of welcoming in Glasgow 194 delegations from all over the planet, there is a real possibility that international public opinion will demand a drastically sustainable approach to the economy. If COP26 has to be rescheduled again, that would be bitterly hard.

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MONTHLY PRINT MAGAZINE!
Subscribe to Geographical today for just £38 a year. Our monthly print magazine is packed full of cutting-edge stories and stunning photography, perfect for anyone fascinated by the world, its landscapes, people and cultures. From climate change and the environment, to scientific developments and global health, we cover a huge range of topics that span the globe. Plus, every issue includes book recommendations, infographics, maps and more!

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Oceans

Scientists are discovering that narwhal tusks reveal a great deal about…

Climate

Climate change is bringing earlier, dangerous 'false springs', longer summers…

Wildlife

A victory for conservation, South Africa has announced plans to…

Energy

The UK has made little progress decarbonising heating, but a significant source…

Nature

The concept of 'natural capital', where the value of nature…

Geophoto

Prestigious photography competition returns for a fourth year

Climate

Founded in the USA by Denis Hayes, Earth Day became…

Geophoto

Tom Goldner's project Do Brumbies Dream in Red? is an intimate portrayal…

Wildlife

Not your usual tune: translating spider's silk into sound could…

Oceans

Millions of oysters have been rescued from the struggling shellfish…

Climate

History is littered with examples of fungi helping to digest…

Geophoto

The streets of Philadelphia are home to a small and forgotten…

Geophoto

When photographer Matthew Maran first snapped a fox he had…

Wildlife

Coloradans have voted to reintroduce grey wolves to the state

Energy

Covid-19 provides an opportunity to re-assess the supply chains of…

Geophoto

Andrea DiCenzo is a photojournalist, who has covered conflicts for…

Oceans

Field observations of corals around the world reveal that not…

Climate

The Great Plains of the USA are once again getting…

Climate

Attempts to build a digital twin of the Earth could…