The UN climate meeting COP 26 has been postponed a full year as a result of COVID-19. Mattias Goldmann, Sweco’s Chief Sustainability Officer reasons that from a climate perspective, there are at least five reasons to be positive about the decision.

The COP26, which should have been held in Glasgow the 9th to the 20th November this year, will be postponed a full year, to the 1st-12th of November 2021. The pre-COP in Italy will be postponed along the same lines. The COP, which has been expected to attract close to 30,000 participants, will still be held in Glasgow, where the convention center is currently being used as a field hospital.

There are at least five reasons to be positive about the decision to postpone the COP:

  1. Raised ambitions take time. At the COP26, all parties to the Paris Agreement are to present their “enhanced action”, which only a handful of countries (Japan, Norway, Surinam, Moldova, Marshall Islands and a few more) have developed so far. Developing countries in particular testify that the resources needed to produce credible and elaborately updated climate plans are lacking in times of corona - better to extend the deadline than not to have progressed.

  2. Climate work can be linked to economic reconstruction. The UNFCCC Secretary General Patricia Espinosa, in her comment on the postponed meeting, highlighted that the stimulus needed to restart the economies after corona is a unique opportunity to create a more sustainable society. A delayed COP26 will then be a good opportunity to compile initiatives and learn from each other's experiences.

  3. The connection to G7 and G20 is strengthened. The COP26's Presidency the UK and the pre-COP Presidency Italy next year chair the G7 and G20, respectively; the associations for the world's largest economies. When this coincides with the COP, with 2021 as the new super-year, there is a good opportunity for synergies and a stronger link between climate and economy.

  4. The United States can be a leader. The US leaves the Paris Agreement on November 4th and would only have observer status at COP26 in Glasgow, were it to be held this year. However, if the candidate of the Democrats wins the presidential election, the United States will re-enter to take a leading role, in good time for the "new" COP26.
  5. The case for climate leadership is strengthened. The Paris Agreement exists and applies regardless of whether COP meetings are held or not, but the failed COP25 in Madrid late last year showed us that we cannot lean on it to solve with the climate crisis. When we do not have a climate summit in 2020 at all, the importance of frontrunners and leaders is clear to all. Here, we hope and expect our home countries as well as businesses such as ours to seek a clear role of global importance.

The corona virus is today’s most acute threat to humanity, while the long-term greatest threat is climate change. With a postponed climate summit, it becomes clearer that solving them both is necessary for a better future.