Climate efforts remain vital during corona crisis, hears debate

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Ljubljana – The postponement of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) due to the Covid pandemic should not equal postponement of climate efforts as well, heard an online debate on Monday hosted by the British embassy in Ljubljana as part of its Future Perfect series. Participants said that actions needed to be stepped up.

The UK is set to host COP26 in November 2021. Upon rescheduling the conference, which was supposed to take place in Glasgow this month, the main message was that global momentum to tackle climate change needed to be maintained and negotiations continued, said UK Lead Climate Negotiator for COP26 Archie Young.

“Postponing COP26 should not mean postponing climate efforts,” he said at today’s debate, titled COP vs COVID – Does Climate Change Still Matter, urging countries to move from negotiations to cooperation.

The crisis should be seen as an opportunity for change, thinks Tina Kobilšek of the Environment Ministry. “We are not only facing the pandemic, but also the biodiversity and climate crises, which will not disappear,” she said. “Perhaps that is not the key priority of countries nowadays, however it will surely be one of the key priorities in the next decades.”

Climate expert Lučka Kajfež Bogataj noted that the Covid impact on climate had been positive due to travel restrictions and companies suspending operations. However, all the positive effects were gone with relaxation of the measures in summer.

“We scientists have never been truly satisfied with climate negotiations,” said Kajfež Bogataj, adding that there is a huge gap between what is written in the Paris Agreement and what is happening in the field.

Given the current measures, the world has merely a 3% shot to achieve the Paris Agreement targets. If official policies and goals were realised, the chance would climb to 10%, she said.

“We’re not on the right track leading to 2 degrees Celsius,” said the expert, referring to the upper limit of global warning as set in the treaty.

She believes one of the main problems regarding lack of action is a lack of urgency for such efforts by politicians. The urgency to step up efforts is instead felt by people who have experienced global warming first-hand. Politicians do not have such personal experiences and that might be part of the problem, she said.

Kajfež Bogataj pointed out that there is currently an abundance of funds meant for green efforts. In the wake of the Covid response, politicians have managed to ferret out billions, whereas only last year there was a shortage of funds for solar energy projects in Slovenia, she said.

Slovenia should take action, also because it is exposed to natural disasters, such as floods and droughts, the expert believes.

Kajfež Bogataj urged stepping up pressure of the civil society on decision-makers and expressed hope that the US will re-join the Paris Agreement after Joe Biden won the presidential election.