May 27, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Why the new UN climate conference date matters

UN SG Antonio Guterres briefs press on climate change at UN Headquarters

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

A pivotal but delayed UN climate conference slated for November is now likely to occur a full year late — and the long pause might have a silver lining for advocates.

Driving the news: The U.K., which is hosting the event that was put on ice weeks ago due to the pandemic, yesterday proposed holding the summit in November 2021.

  • A UN body is likely to approve the request later this week.

Why it matters: The summit is meant to be a forum for countries to boost their emissions-cutting ambitions in recognition that, a half-decade after the Paris agreement, the world remains far off pace for meeting its goals.

Quick take: The new schedule, unknown when the event was postponed two months ago, means diplomats will have time to absorb how countries are — or aren't — folding low-carbon investments into pandemic response measures.

What they're saying: "While I hate to see a delay in the Paris timeline, rescheduling ... will allow countries to figure out how to achieve double wins of restarting their economies while enhancing emission reductions, as well as simultaneously increasing health and climate resilience," Andrew Light of the World Resources Institute tells me.

But, but, but: Costa Rican Environment Minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez tells The New York Times the long delay could undercut efforts to create sustainable stimulus packages.

  • "We’re losing time," he said. "Having a [Conference of the Parties] soon would help influence global recovery plans."
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