UNFCCC confirms all outstanding talks scheduled for this year will be moved to next year, as world continues to tackle coronavirus pandemic
The UN climate secretariat has confirmed it is to postpone the next round of preparatory talks for the crucial COP26 Climate Summit, rescheduling the meeting for 2021 in order to give governments more time to tackle the on-going coronavirus pandemic.
At a virtual meeting yesterday, the Bureau of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC decided to postpone the UN Climate Change meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies (SB52) until next year.
The crucial round of talks had originally been scheduled to take place this month, before being postponed until October 4th. However, with the coronavirus pandemic continuing in many countries around the world and the COP26 Summit now delayed by a full year until November 2021, top climate diplomats yesterday confirmed the talks would now be postponed for a second time.
The UNFCCC said the meetings are set to take place in the World Conference Centre in Bonn, Germany at a date which has yet to be decided.
"The decision by the Bureau was based on the need to ensure not only full inclusion and participation, but the well-being and safety of all involved under the current travel restrictions and guidelines from local German health authorities in relation to the global health crisis around COVID-19," the UNFCCC said in a statement.
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa stressed that virtual meetings and negotiations would continue ahead of the next physical meeting. "COVID-19 is an exceptional challenge impacting the lives of billions," she said. "But it has not put an end to climate change which continues to accelerate, it continues to be an existential threat and we must therefore, continue to take collective, multilateral action at a global scale to address it. It has changed the way we work, but it has not stopped it."
Her comments were echoed by COP25 President Minister Carolina Schmidt from Chile who said talks would continue to encourage governments to submit enhanced national climate action plans this year and formulate a "clear roadmap towards COP26".
COP26 President-Designate and UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said it was "disappointing that the Bonn Subsidiary Body October meetings will no longer take place as planned". But he stressed that the postponement was happening for "the right reasons".
"Despite this postponement we must not lose momentum in our work to accelerate global climate action," she said. "We will continue our close collaboration with the UNFCCC, COP25 Presidency Chile, the Subsidiary Body Chairs and our international partners to deliver a successful, ambitious COP in partnership with Italy in the UK next year."
The news came on the same day as the EU and China wrapped up their latest bilateral summit by video conference, once again reiterating their shared commitment to climate action while also underscoring the scale of the geopolitical challenge diplomats face as they work to bring the Paris Agreement into full effect next year.
The EU and China are widely regarded as critical to the success of the COP26 Summit, with Brussels looking to work with Beijing to secure credible decarbonisation plans two of the world's largest economies. Diplomats hope an ambitious new climate target from China would go a long way towards convincing other emerging economies to follow suit, while also making it easier for industrialised nations to enhance their plans.
However, with the US and China at loggerheads over trade issues and tensions having ratcheted up following the coronavirus outbreak observers fear the crucial climate summit could play out against a backdrop of increased geopolitical tensions that some commentators have suggested could quickly become a new Cold War.
In a statement at the end of the latest talks, President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, both indicated that the bloc was willing to take a tougher line in its engagements with China.
"EU-China relations have evolved in recent years," Michel said. "Our economic interdependency is high, and we must work together on global challenges like climate action, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals or dealing with COVID-19. Engaging and cooperating with China is both an opportunity and necessity. But, at the same time, we have to recognise that we do not share the same values, political systems, or approach to multilateralism. We will engage in a clear-eyed and confident way, robustly defending EU interests and standing firm on our values."
Von der Leyen offered a similarly stark assessment of how the relationship should evolve in the coming months and years. "The COVID-pandemic and a number of major bilateral and multilateral challenges show clearly the EU-China partnership is crucial, be it in terms of trade, climate, technology, and the defence of multilateralism," she said. "But for our relations to develop further, they must become more rules-based and reciprocal, in order to achieve a real level playing-field."
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