The Twenty-Sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP26) has been postponed. 

The world’s largest climate conference was due to be held in Glasgow, Scotland in November this year, hosted by the United Kingdom in partnership with Italy. However, due to rapid spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic which has resulted in travel restrictions being imposed worldwide, the conference has now been postponed to 2021, with an exact date to be decided in due course. 

The decision was taken by the COP Bureau of the UNFCCC, with the United Kingdom and Italy. Samoa is the representative of the Small Island Developing States to the COP Bureau. A decision was also made to postpone the meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies from June to October in Bonn, Germany, which also contributed to the need for postponement of COP26. 

Ms Tagaloa Cooper, Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)’s Climate Change Resilience Programme, said, “We have had to postpone a lot of our planned activities, including an inter-regional post-COP25 analysis workshop which was to take place in March. We have also had to postpone all of our on the ground work in the region.”

“These are extraordinary times, not just for the Pacific, but for the whole world.  We stand firm in our commitment to provide support for the climate change work of our Pacific island Members through remote work.  We also stand firm in continuing our support for our Pacific island Members as we prepare for the Climate Change COP- our work plan for this is finalised, we just have to make amendments to suit the times and the needs of our Pacific island Members and the timetable to be established by the COP Bureau and circulated to Parties.”

Earlier this week, SPREP’s Director General, Mr Kosi Latu revealed the measures taken by the Secretariat to ensure that, despite the disruptions caused by the coronavirus, it is still able to carry out its work and perform its responsibilities to its Pacific Members. 

“In this era of internet technology, our continued support and services will remain in place, but with limited and reduced capacity for our Members and Partners, noting restrictions on inter-country movement placed by respective governments to protect citizens and our region as a whole,” said Mr Latu.

“We continue to be available to our Members, to remotely provide support to maintain the resilience of our Pacific people and environment,” he added. 

Approximately 30,000 delegates were expected to gather in Glasgow in November, in what was to be the most important climate change negotiations since the Paris Agreement in 2015 to put countries back on track to avoid climate breakdown. 

United Nations Climate Change Executive Secretary, Ms Patricia Espinosa said, “COVID-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term.”

As for the Subsidiary Bodies meetings postponed from June, these will be held in Bonn from 4 to 12 October 2020. The respective Chairs are working on a timetable and information paper to allow countries and groups to prepare in the interim. Several planned events will be held through virtual participation, whilst others will have to be postponed until in-person meetings can take place again.

For more information please contact Mr Espen Ronneberg, SPREP Climate Change Adviser, at [email protected]