COP 26 Postponement. Will World Show Tiredness or Fresh Resolve in 2021?

The Postponement of the COP 26 meeting to 2021, may not be such a bad thing after all. The current meeting was set to be overshadowed completely by the US presidential polls, while now, the 2021 meeting can start with a clean slate.

The announcement had been building up, and when it finally came, surprised no one. “In light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of Covid-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible,” the U.N. said in a statement Wednesday. The summit had been scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Conference of Parties (COP) has emerged as an important forum to discuss, and arrive at mutually agreeable targets, when it comes to fighting climate change. At the conference this year, hopes were high, yet again, for countries to announce more ambitious climate pledges and funding  to help developing countries prepare for impact from climate change.

The postponement now, rather than a cause for worry, should be seen in a positive light, as there is every chance that the Covid-19 pandemic, while putting paid to the schedule for the year, has also thrown up a wealth of fresh data and possibilities when it comes to fighting climate change too.

The next  COP conference, which has been drawing upwards of 25,000 to 30,000 people will hopefully have a much more ambitious agenda. Not just because of the possibilities the lockdowns have shown in terms of what can be achieved with a collective resolve, but also in terms of the funding/stimulus plans that governments have been forced to come up with. These massive plans, which have dwarfed the most ambitious climate funding plans for the same period, have simply proven that the money was never the issue, intent was. It is now upto the right people to make the connection, and ensure that funding does not reward poor behaviour or polluting industries like coal, and supports technologies and behaviour change that is truly sustainable.

Thus, even as the delay means a further push back on critical emission and other targets to 2021 and beyond, the fact that 2020 will in any case go down as  a year with a significant drop in emissions, however involuntary they might be, means that some breathing space has been granted.

“The decision in Paris in 2015 invited countries to update their pledges by 2020,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “That is not a legally binding requirement—it’s a political request—but it still holds even if the summit is postponed. The pressure is still on countries to revise their commitments and that will be complicated by the Covid crisis.”

One of the most interesting analogies people like to draw is the response of the world after the 2008 financial crisis. Then, the world responded to the slowdown and subsequent stimulus with ever higher emissions and pollution, as norms were relaxed to ‘catch up’. Today, the situation is much more different. For one, the energy transition is well and truly on, with renewables in a c0mpletely new spot as compared to 2008. In key European countries for instance, the share of renewable energy itself in the grid has moved from sub 20 levels to over 60 percent or higher today.

The market for green bonds is evolving fast, and there is every chance it will get a boost, as countries look to find stimulus plans that are sustainable themselves. Renewable energy offers that option today, unlike coal and other fossil fuels.

The threat by the incumbent US President Donald Trump to  withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement is still real, though a change in President could change that , or even a bruising battle in the US that changes President Trump’s mind, though that could be hoping for far too much.  Experts have opined that if Trump were to be  reelected, China and the European Union, the first and third-largest greenhouse gas emitters, could make a joint commitment under the agreement in any case.  China especially will look to buff its reputation with more aggressive commitments now.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh is the founder at IamRenew

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