1 April 2020

François Rogers, frogers [at]
David Tong, david.tong [at]

Climate Action Network International Members React to the Postponement of COP26 to 2021

This week, the COP26 bureau and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change announced the postponement of the Bonn intersessional and COP26 climate negotiations. A new set of dates was not announced. In response, members of Climate Action Network International had the following responses:

Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network:

“At this moment, all our efforts are focused on fighting the Covid19 pandemic. Governments must prioritise the health, safety and jobs of their citizens. Under these circumstances, we acknowledge the necessity to postpone the Bonn climate session to later this year and COP26 to 2021.

“Let us remember this pandemic is taking place against the backdrop of an ecological crisis- one that threatens the lives of millions of people and will exacerbate the risks we already face. Just like a fast-spreading virus, climate change has no regard for borders. If one country is not safe, no country is safe. The postponement of the climate talks does not mean a postponement of climate ambition. This does not let governments off the hook — we will continue to hold them accountable to deliver renewed climate ambition for the equitable and just transformation of societies. If there is anything that this Covid19 crisis has taught us, it is that now more than ever we need sustained international efforts to build a safe and resilient future.”

David Tong, Senior Campaigner, Oil Change International:

“Postponing COP26 and interim meetings is the right call to protect public health. But while these meetings are delayed, climate action must accelerate. The global response to the COVID-19 health crisis and its economic fallout will help define our response to the climate crisis in the years and decades ahead. Trillions of dollars will be needed to build a resilient economy through this crisis. We must ensure investment packages directly aid people and workers, rather than bailing out big polluters like the fossil fuel industry. The need for systemic change is clear — which means investing in people and the clean energy economy, not propping up fossil fuels and the energy systems of the past.”

Mohamed Adow, Director, Power Shift Africa:

“The postponement of the Bonn meeting and subsequent adjustment to the COP26 date is a sensible step. It doesn’t make sense to bring people from every country together in the middle of a pandemic. Although these postponed meetings are important they are not the entirety of climate action. Postponing them does not mean postponing climate action. Country delegations should use this extra time to ensure the economic response to Covid-19 doesn’t entrench the climate crisis, but instead accelerates the transition to a zero carbon world. Before the pandemic countries were failing to deliver quick enough emissions reductions and support for the vulnerable. This delay, combined with the economic recovery investment being devised, gives leaders the opportunity to revise their climate plans. Economies in the rich north must not be kickstarted with dirty investment that will lead to climate suffering in the global south.”

Anna Vickerstaff, Senior UK Campaigner,

“While the pandemic has forced international climate diplomacy to drastically slow down, climate action must remain high on the political agenda this year. The coronavirus outbreak is throwing into sharp relief how the current system is failing the most vulnerable and generating multiple crises, including climate breakdown. Social justice, community-led solutions, equity and workers’ rights must be at the centre of any government actions to tackle both these crises.”

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Global Lead, WWF Climate & Energy Practice:

“Under the circumstances, the decision to postpone both the annual mid-year UN climate negotiations and COP26, is unavoidable. Our collective priority must be to put health and lives first which is why we must treat COVID-19 seriously.

“But climate action must remain a non-negotiable global priority. That means we must also focus on creating low-carbon job opportunities and increasing our societies’ economic and ecological resilience. This means countries must continue their work to step up ambition to tackle the climate crisis in a socially fair way, by decarbonizing economies and energy systems, increasing nature-based solutions and addressing unsustainable agriculture and deforestation, including through any economic recovery effort. It is especially vital that countries align all recovery and stimulus packages with climate science.

“There are important and specific opportunities for job creation in the net-zero economy in labour intensive sectors such as digital infrastructure, insulation and energy efficiency, sustainable public transport, solar PV deployment in cities and ecosystem restoration, among others. 

“The current alarming situation we are facing also underlines the need for urgent action to halt the imminent loss of lives from the climate crisis and to rebalance our relationship with nature. We are all on this planet together. Countries are stronger working together, and international cooperation based on creating socially, economically and ecologically resilient societies is the best option to resolve present and future crises such as COVID-19 and the global climate crisis.”

Harjeet Singh, Global Climate Lead, ActionAid:

“Climate disasters won’t stop for the Covid-19 crisis. But we can’t address the climate emergency if distracted governments adopt half-measures in order to stick to a schedule. Current climate plans put the world on track for a catastrophic 3 or 4 degrees of warming. In these uncertain times, a postponement of COP26 gives governments more time to increase their climate pledges.

“The coronavirus outbreak will hit the poorest and most marginalised the hardest, those who are already facing food shortages and who are on the frontline of the climate crisis.  

“But the pandemic also proves that if there is political will, dramatic actions can be taken, trillions of dollars can be mobilised and people will accept inconvenience and strong government interventions, if it means protecting millions of lives. It shows the level of ambition that must be applied to the climate emergency.”

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International:

“The Covid-19 response has to be resilient for our health and climate. The goal of governments now is to care for their citizens, stabilise and rebuild — and they must do so in a way that creates a just and climate-safe world, because environmental health and our own well-being are dependent on each other. COP26 being put on hold should make governments double down on their efforts to ensure a green and just way forward in handling this health crisis and the climate emergency. Going back to ‘business as usual’ is completely unacceptable: this pandemic shows there are huge lessons to be learned about the importance of listening to science and the need for urgent collective global action.”

Sébastien Duyck, Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law:

“The UNFCCC decision to suspend COP26 is necessary to prioritize the health and safety of communities in the face of COVID-19. Even though the meeting has been postponed, climate action remains essential and we cannot stop in the face of a pandemic. The long-term health and safety of communities around the world also remain at risk due to climate change. Governments must continue to ensure their policies to accelerate a transition away from fossil fuels are guided by sustainability and that they promote the economic and social rights of the most vulnerable.”

Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy & Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists:

“The UNFCCC has made the right decision to postpone the climate talks scheduled for June and November. This is a time for all leaders to heed the advice of science professionals, and to take immediate actions to safeguard the health and economic wellbeing of their people. 

“Global warming emissions are at record levels and impacts are increasing every day; climate change won’t pause even for a pandemic of epic proportions. It’s vital that the postponement of these negotiating sessions not slow down national and international efforts to accelerate climate action and build a safer, more resilient world. This means shifting investments away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources and enhanced energy efficiency, rapidly reducing emissions to ensure we reach net zero by midcentury, and providing adequate funding to help those countries and communities already enduring devastating climate impacts.

“The response to the COVID-19 pandemic is showing that the nations of the world can come together to tackle global challenges, and that the policy landscape can shift quickly when there is sufficient political will. This should give us hope as we move forward in the fight to tackle the global crisis of climate change.”

Rachel Rose Jackson, Director of Climate Research & Policy, Corporate Accountability: 

“Today’s announcement to postpone the climate negotiations cannot be misinterpreted as a delay in climate action or the international collaboration needed to deliver it. While public health must be the priority right now, the unfortunate truth is that any delay in action, albeit necessary, will mean those enduring the worst impacts of climate change now risk having to wait even longer for already overdue real solutions and finance they so desperately need and are owed. 

“Big Polluters are already leveraging this deadly pandemic to advance their agenda, from billion-dollar bailouts to deregulation, and one of the greatest risks of this decision will be that Big Polluters will also use this delay to further undermine climate policy at the national levels and further erode ambition around the globe.

“Vitaly important issues are at stake and the demands from millions of people calling for real and just action are stronger everyday. We can and must address this pandemic in a way that truly transforms the systemic injustices that have also given rise to climate emergency. The work in front of us is more important now than ever.”

Kimbowa Richard, Programme Manager, Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development:

“Postponing COP26 and other meetings due to the global concern on COVID-19 is a wake-up call, as climate change (emergency!) is more complex than we know. For example its linkage with human-induced degradation of nature that has resulted in increased occurence of zoonotic diseases is now more clearer. This calls for more global ambition, coordination and responsibility to address climate change and wider environmental stewardship.”

Chema Vera, Interim Executive Director, Oxfam International:

“This pause is understandable in light of efforts to stop the pandemic we all now face. But this should not mean pausing our vital efforts to respond to a climate crisis that is already threatening lives and pushing millions of people deeper into hunger and poverty.

“The UK, as host of the summit, can keep global momentum going by working with countries worldwide to commit to bold economic stimulus measures that will reduce carbon emissions as well as accelerate the recovery from coronavirus. Steps taken now to reshape the economy and clean industries of the future cannot wait.

“Governments are right now showing they are ready to cooperate. They should avoid repeating the same mistakes that were made after the 2008 global financial crisis when stimulus packages caused emissions to rebound.”

Sven Harmeling, Global Policy Lead on Climate Change & Resilience, CARE International:

“In light of the severe disruptions and human suffering due to the COVID-19 crisis, this decision seemed unavoidable. Minimizing the Coronavirus’s adverse impacts in the next few weeks, in particular on marginalised and poor women and girls, will rightly absorb governments full attention. But it is also clear that governments have repeatedly confirmed that urgent action is required to avoid a complete climate breakdown, in particular by richer countries. Postponement of the COP26 conference should not mean postponement of strong action on climate justice. In our collective efforts to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, we must ensure we accelerate rather than undermine achievement of the Paris Agreement.”

Josianne Gauthier, Secretary General, CIDSE:
“The change of date of a climate summit is understandable in the current circumstances but that doesn’t mean though that we are forgetting urgency and ambition to address the climate crisis. The current pandemic is showing once again that the current system as it is is not able to tackle today’s global challenges. We were living in a state of emergency even before COVID19 and returning to that ‘normal’ is not an option: now policies should be put in place to rebuild societies that are able to address all these interconnected crises, economies that truly put people and planet before profit.”

Nick Mabey, Chief Executive Officer, E3G:

“Moving the timing of COP26 is a responsible decision to protect health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. While we must urgently tackle the health crisis and its social and economic ripple effects, we can’t forget that the clock is still ticking in the race to stop climate change. As the world moves to recover from COVID, building climate cooperation through a rescheduled COP26 will be part of the new global effort needed to limit multiple future global crises.”

Dr. Richard Dixon, Director, Friends of the Earth Scotland: 

“Given the worldwide health dangers of coronavirus, it is understandable that the UN climate negotiations in Glasgow have been delayed.  Every effort must be made to save lives and protect the vulnerable who will suffer the most in this crisis. However rich countries must not use the delay in the talks to delay taking urgent action on reducing emissions and providing climate finance for developing countries. Because the climate crisis is very urgent, COP26 needs to take place in the first half of 2021 and COP27 should still happen as planned that autumn. The climate talks should go ahead as soon as it is safe to hold them, but it is essential that they do so on the basis that global south nations are able to fully attend and demand the action necessary to deal with the climate emergency. This means full access for global south nations, experts and activists.”

Jamie Williams, Senior Policy Advisor, Islamic Relief Worldwide:

“Delaying  COP26 is a necessary response to this horrific crisis.  When we welcome the world to Glasgow in 2021 we expect governments to have begun to take action urgently before future crises unfold — whether in public health or the climate emergency.  More than ever we need to work together to reduce the risks, protect citizens, encourage community-level resilience and take drastic measures to transform priorities and economies in the face of the climate threat. Climate action must remain high on the political agenda this year as governments prepare to protect and rebuild communities. At the COP next year we expect to come together in sombre reflection with a determination that resources and attention are directed to building sustained ecological and social resilience, putting people before profit. These must especially involve women and children, people with disabilities, the elderly and people living in extreme poverty who suffer first and most when catastrophe strikes.”

Ken Berlin, President and CEO of The Climate Reality Project:

“The health and wellbeing of all citizens must be first and foremost in the minds of all climate activists during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we fully understand the decision of the UNFCCC’s COP Bureau representatives to postpone both the June climate negotiations and November’s COP26 in Glasgow.

“The scale of the COVID-19 public health crisis is a sobering example of the urgent need for worldwide cooperation to find and advance solutions to our greatest global challenges, including the climate crisis. During this postponement, it is critical for nations to enhance their climate ambition by significantly strengthening their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions justly and fairly, as required by the Paris Agreement. We urge governments to use this time to further align their own decision making with the will of their citizens, who have shown that they support climate action, including expanding progress on clean energy, transportation, and agriculture, as core principles of relief and recovery efforts. By doing so, we can achieve a cleaner, healthier, and better future and ensure that the world that we want emerges from this crisis to help us avoid the next.”

Bridget Burns, Director, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO):

“The COVID-19 crisis has forced us to rethink our work and our timelines for in-person dialogue and decision-making, but the climate crisis remains a critical, life-altering, game-changing global challenge as well. As we reorient toward a 2021 COP, we recognize this is the time for true transformation, continuing our work undeterred.  This moment is calling for a just recovery. We must begin by building resilience as these interlocking crises come to a head: a crisis of capitalism, of colonialism, of corruption, of placing profit over people’s health, and of planetary well-being. We must recover by rebuilding towards an equitable, livable, feminist future for all.”