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COP26 postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus pandemic

Business secretary Alok Sharma says government will continue working ‘tirelessly’ to tackle climate crisis

The eagerly anticipated United Nations Climate Change Conference set to take place in Glasgow in November has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced on 1 April that the conference, known as COP26, would be rescheduled for 2021, with the dates set to be announced “in due course following further discussion with parties”.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “The world is currently facing an unprecedented global challenge and countries are rightly focusing their efforts on saving lives and fighting Covid-19. 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 crisis and I look forward to agreeing a new date for the conference.”

Mark Maslin, a professor of climatology at University College London, described the decision as a “blessing in disguise as many of us were aware that the government was nowhere near ready to lead such momentous and important international 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.”

Dave Reay, a professor of carbon management and education at the University of Edinburgh said the postponement was “understandable given the turmoil all nations are enduring”.

However, he added: “This must not mean action on climate change is also postponed. With every delayed action or misspent dollar of economic stimulus the risks posed by climate change grow further.”

Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry, added that the “climate crisis will not pause for this health crisis”.

“When the virus subsides, COP26 will be more important than ever to catalyse fast, decisive actions and build a sustainable, global economy.”

Greenpeace international executive director Jennifer Morgan said: “The Covid-19 response has to be resilient for our health and climate…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.”

She added: “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.”