International climate summit in Glasgow could be postponed again due to Covid

The United Nations environmental summit, COP26, due to take place in Glasgow this November, could be cancelled for the second time depending on the global levels of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sir David Attenborough at the launch of the UK-hosted COP26 UN Climate Summit last year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sir David Attenborough at the launch of the UK-hosted COP26 UN Climate Summit last year.

The event, which attracts tens of thousands of people from around the world, was postponed last year and rescheduled to take place this autumn, with newly-elected US president Joe Biden expected to attend.

It would be the biggest international summit the UK has ever hosted, bringing together more 30,000 delegates, including heads of state, climate experts and campaigners to agree co-ordinated action to tackle climate change.

However, current travel restrictions in Scotland and the potential introduction of border controls to prevent the import of new Covid strains into the country could force organisers to cancel or downsize the event.

At the Scottish Government’s daily Covid briefing on Wednesday, national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said that public health advice was at the heart of planning for the summit.

He said: “I and others have been involved in that. It's a UK Government-led process, but Scottish public health leaders are in those conversations and there are plans for everything, from cancellation to holding a full COP26 with everything in between, perhaps just the negotiators, perhaps just a virtual event ... all of that will depend on where the UK is, but also where the rest of the world is [in terms of coronavirus cases], because in terms of travel it’s about where people are coming from.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was not within her “gift” to cancel COP26 as it was a United Nations summit. She added: “I very much hope COP26 can go ahead, but clearly we will all need to consider the position.”

She added: “Whatever happens and I hope it's able to proceed, the challenge and obligation we all have to up our game and tackle climate change has not disappeared because of the pandemic.”

COP26 is due to run from November 1 to November 12 at Glasgow’s SEC. The UK Government is the official host of the event and Boris Johnson, who along with naturalist Sir David Attenborough launched the event last year before it was cancelled, is expected to play a prominent role.

A UK Government spokesperson said: "We are working on the basis of COP26 being held in person, while closely monitoring the Covid situation.

"The summit team is working closely with all partners and exploring what different scenarios might mean for COP26 and how we plan for that, whilst putting the health of the participants and the local community first."

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