Apr 1, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Coronavirus delays major climate change conference

Illustration of the surface melting off of the earth
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A landmark United Nations climate change summit, originally scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland, is being delayed until next year.

Why it matters: This isn't just another major convention scuttled by coronavirus. This is a make-or-break moment as countries face pressure to increase their ambitions to tackle climate change.

Where it stands: The conference, now set to be held in spring 2021, is the most important of these perennial U.N. gatherings since the 2015 event in France, which resulted in the Paris Climate Agreement.

  • The Glasgow summit is meant to be where nations present the first batch of more ambitious plans, as called for every five years in the 2015 deal.

The big picture: A variety of countries were already falling behind increasing commitments to that deal, whose goal is to limit Earth’s temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius over the next century. The economic recession roiling the world is likely to only make these commitments less central to governments’ priorities.

One level deeper: The shutdowns associated with coronavirus are already resulting in less heat-trapping emissions and other kinds of pollution.

  • The ensuing recession is also likely to temper emissions throughout much of this year.
  • But past economic recessions, including the 2008 crash, indicate these trends will dissipate as economic activity picks back up.

Yes, but: Some energy and environmental leaders, including the International Energy Agency, are calling on governments to incorporate policies into economic recovery plans that are more supportive of clean energy and action on climate change.

The intrigue: The planned site of the climate conference in Glasgow — the SEC Arena — is being turned into a temporary hospital to manage patients with COVID-19.

Go deeper: 10 ways coronavirus is changing energy and climate change

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