Vital climate talks due to be held in Glasgow this November have been moved to next year as governments struggle to combat the spread of coronavirus.
The conference, one of the world’s largest diplomatic gatherings with more than 26,000 expected attendees, was postponed with lockdowns around the world are making it difficult to hold talks leading up to the event.
The United Nations conference is deemed to be the most important in climate negotiations since the Paris agreement in 2015.
But with Covid-19 now affecting 203 countries and territories around the world, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) granted permission on Wednesday for the UK to postpone the talks until 2021.
New dates for the meetings will be decided in the coming months.
The UK energy minister and president of the Cop26 conference, Alok Sharma, said: “The world is currently facing an unprecedented global challenge and countries are rightly focusing their efforts on saving lives and fighting Covid-19. That is why we have decided to reschedule COP26.
“We will continue working tirelessly with our partners to deliver the ambition needed to tackle the climate crisis and I look forward to agreeing a new date for the conference.”
The decision has led to a mixed reaction from climate campaigners and environmental groups, some of whom had hoped the talks could go ahead using video conferencing or a slimmed down version of the event.
Leading environmental campaigner Dr Richard Dixon, from Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “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.
“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 or activists.
“There is historical precedent for two sets of climate talks in one year, with two rounds of climate negotiations taking place in 2001 in Bonn and in Marrakech. “
COP26 has been deemed vital to the climate crisis given that since the Paris agreement, countries have failed to develop climate commitments that go far enough.
The conference in Glasgow was meant to bring tougher plans – and most importantly strong budgets – to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The COP26 meeting was scheduled to be held in Glasgow at the SEC. This week, the Scottish Government announced the venue would be turned into a field hospital to treat virus victims.
Other upcoming climate talks, namely The Petersberg Climate Dialogue, will be held online at the end of April. The May preparatory meeting for the UN climate negotiations in Bonn is understood to be postponed to autumn.