Coronavirus hits a critical year for nature, climateProperty — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News
Covid-19 could derail new global agreements on biodiversity, oceans and COP26 climate talks. In October, the city of Kunming in southwestern China is scheduled to host COP15, the 15th conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the most important biodiversity conference in a decade.
This year’s packed agenda of negotiations on climate change, biodiversity and the global ocean was supposed to address the fortunes of a living world in a critical condition. But the coronavirus pandemic is forcing drastic changes to the schedule.
The Covid-19 virus, which has infected more than 170,000 people, has hit hardest China and European countries, where several key meetings for achieving new environmental commitments have already been cancelled or postponed. More are in doubt.
The consequences seriously concern activists and experts, who have warned of the critical urgency of action to protect the planet.“The coronavirus generates the same level of uncertainty as the changes brought about by the crisis in climate and biodiversity. We are entering unknown territory,” said Tom Burke, co-founder of the environmental group E3G.
The UN body that oversees international climate negotiations, the UNFCC, has cancelled or postponed all meetings in March and April, both at its headquarters in Bonn, Germany, and worldwide.
African Climate Week, due to take place from 9 March in Uganda, has been called off. Patricia Espinosa, the UNFCCC’s executive secretary, said in a statement that the evolution of the pandemic will be monitored and the status of upcoming events judged accordingly.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: “Our task has been made more difficult as many summits have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. But as we work to contain it, we must use every opportunity we have to build the climate action agenda.”
In June, dozens of delegates from around the world are scheduled to meet in Bonn to advance climate discussions. This now looks to be in jeopardy: the German government has called for the cancellation of all events involving more than 1,000 people.
…it will lead countries to prioritise indiscriminate economic growth over climate action
The biggest question mark hangs over the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) on climate change, scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland. This summit is central to advancing the climate agenda after COP25 talks in Madrid failed.
“To have a successful COP26, you have to … guide the negotiation to a good result. If all the countries are concentrating on other problems such as coronavirus, that’s unlikely to be achieved,” said Enrique Maurtua Konstantinidis, senior climate advisor at Argentina’s Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN).
COP25 was meant to resolve key points for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, including the creation of an international carbon market and getting rich countries from the Global North to help finance the poorer Global South to deal with climate change. All these key stumbling blocks are now on the Glasgow agenda.
COP26 would see signatories to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change present new commitments, known as NDCs, which are meant to raise their ambition, a critical step in curbing global emissions.
Director of Colombian NGO Visión en Transforma Isabel Cavelier, said the relationship between coronavirus and climate will change over the short and longer term.
“It’s positive because it leads to the reduction of emissions due to less economic activity. But at the same time, it is negative because it will lead countries to prioritise indiscriminate economic growth over climate action,” she said.
This year was also supposed to deliver new global targets for protecting biodiversity. In October, the city of Kunming in southwestern China is scheduled to host COP15, the 15th conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the most important biodiversity conference in a decade. Any new agreement on protecting nature is due to be adopted in Kunming.
Although China has yet to decide on the fate of COP15, a preparatory meeting in February was moved to Italy before the European country went into coronavirus lockdown. Fewer delegates participated in a meeting in Rome.
“Some delegations were not allowed to leave or had to leave earlier. The CBD has 196 states parties and only around 150 were present,” said Ana di Pangracio, FARN’s deputy executive director, who participated in the meeting. “Some were absent for political reasons and others because of coronavirus.”
Coronavirus has also led to the postponement of five meetings of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) due to take place between March and April. The IMO environmental protection committee must decide on proposals to improve ships’ energy efficiency. Shipping is responsible for 3% of anthropogenic greenhouse emissions.
A UN conference on protecting marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, scheduled for March 23 in New York was also shelved and the WTO (World Trade Organization) has suspended all meetings until March 20. If the move is extended, it could affect the June annual meeting in Kazakhstan, which has the elimination of fishing subsidies high on the agenda.
One more UN meeting is under threat. The Ocean Conference 2020, on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 on life below water, is scheduled for June in Lisbon, Portugal. June had been shaping up to be a crucial month for issues affecting the health of the global ocean.
This second iteration of the ocean conference is aimed at getting countries to make voluntary commitments on marine protection, including tougher fishing regulations and improved conservation of coastal and marine areas.
“Coronavirus is very powerful and could lead to postponing most of the meetings from here to the end of the year,” said Burke, who said informal talks at gatherings are central to their success.
“Replacing them with virtual meetings would not be enough since most of the negotiations take place in the corridors, outside of official meetings.”