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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The scuttling of November's pivotal UN climate conference is the starkest sign yet of how coronavirus is throwing a wrench into efforts to combat global warming. But like the wider relationship between the coronavirus and climate initiatives, the ramifications are ... complicated.

Driving the news: UN officials announced Wednesday that the annual summit to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, is postponed until some unknown time next year.

Why it matters: Axios' Amy Harder reported yesterday that this isn't just another major convention scuttled by coronavirus.

  • The event was to be a make-or-break moment for countries to increase their emissions-cutting ambitions — the most important annual climate conference since the Paris Agreement was struck in 2015.

The intrigue: The conference was to start just days after the U.S. presidential election, a contest that will be immensely important for global climate diplomacy.

  • President Trump is pulling the U.S. out of Paris. Rival Joe Biden is vowing not only to remain in, but also to toughen U.S. policies and convene talks to boost other nations' ambitions.

What they're saying: "The current situation is awful, but it unintentionally creates some needed distance between the U.S. election and the [UN conference], which had been scheduled to start six days later," said Andrew Light, who was a senior climate aide in Obama's state department.

  • "I’m not even sure we’ll know the results of the election by then. It’s no secret some countries had been looking at various options for how they would position themselves in part responding to the results of our election," he tells me.

Another veteran of global climate talks agrees with that sentiment and also suggests other reasons why the delay, occurring for tragic reasons, could be tactically helpful.

  • “I don’t think a lot of countries are in a great place to increase their ambition this year,” the source tells me, adding that the economic and human consequences of COVID-19 will be better known.

The big picture: Amy notes that some advocates, 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.

  • “Soon, economies will restart. This is a chance for nations to recover better, to include the most vulnerable in those plans, and a chance to shape the 21st-century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, just, safe and more resilient," Patricia Espinosa, the top UN climate official, said in announcing the delay.

But, but, but: Those opportunities aside, the delay comes as many nations' efforts to transform the goal of Paris — to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius — into concrete steps were already faltering, Amy writes.

  • The Guardian adds that "several prominent climate experts had feared that delaying the talks would mean governments eased off on pursuing stronger commitments to fulfill the Paris goals."

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

4 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.