Coronavirus postpones COP26: Effects on climate change

By Asitha Jayawardena

The ongoing self-isolation with respect to coronavirus has postponed the Conference of Parties COP26 into a certain date of 2021.

COP26, or United Nations Climate Change Conference, was scheduled to be held at Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in Glasgow from 9 to 20 November 2020 with the participation of 30,000. Together with UK, Italy will take part in organising this event.

Climate change is devastating but, unlike the coronavirus pandemic, it should be measured in years and decades. Coronavirus crisis, or more specifically covid-19, should be timed in weeks and months.

Anyway, has this postponement of COP26 caused any impact on climate change?

Global stock-take since 2015 reduced

Since the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015, the first global stock-take of the participating countries after five years would be delayed by another year. Countries have their own Intended nationally determined contributions to the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as opposed to the business-as-usual scenario and these figures will be presented at this world conference.

Why is this reschedule bad? Yes, it is. This calculation will decide the global emissions that will have the increase of the average global temperature of 1.5 or 2oC.

Going for a world 2oC warmer will bring issues such as intense heat, ice-free Arctic and sea level rise. So, 1.5oC warmer is better but the decision will have to wait another year.

American elections

This timing of the postponement will bring the American elections to an end with the new president looking at this in a fresh way. The current US administration is of the view that Paris Agreement is unbearably tax American workers, businesses and taxpayers and Trump plans to withdraw the US from the agreement.

On 3 November 2020, the US election will be held and now the postponed COP26 will be held in 2021. If a Joe Biden wins the presidency, the US will stay in the agreement. If Trump wins….

Therefore, we can see the negativity in this postponement. But what if coronavirus has brought positive points?

Pollution levels at the lowest

When the coronavirus chapter is over (nobody knows what the date is – 3 months or 18 months), communities and countries will have a very low amounts of pollution, especially with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.

Some parts of the lockdown measures – most of the industries ‘in isolation’, limits on the air travel, improved air quality and the fall of international trade – will have a positive action when going for the COP26. When it will happen, it’s anyone’s guess.

Localised world

The chances are that the globalised world will no longer be there if coronavirus hit harder to national economies. The air travel, the global trade and the fossil fuels will return at a very slow rate if at all.

This process will give the climate enthusiasts time when the COP26 will come in in 2021.

Many countries have turned into their local business in terms of the innovation of coronavirus, including robots delivering food and medicine to the patients. Fearing into lockdown, some communities have started agriculture in their local areas. With time, when these innovations and agriculture bear fruit, it would be difficult to resort into the normal that coronavirus strikes in Wuhan in December 2019.

Everyone affected

Today, it seems that all countries – except North Korea – affected in some way and the COP26 will take place in that situation in 2021.

How strong will the humanity rally towards the COP26, only time will tell?


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