Walkouts, standoffs, shouting, tears, bloodletting – the UN climate Cops have seen it all. The annual meetings, in which all countries bar a few failed states take part, under the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), are the only global forum for discussing the future of the planet. They have veered between triumph and disaster, marked by dramatic and sometimes traumatic moments. At their best they can be momentous events, shifting the world’s response to the climate crisis into a higher gear, as at the landmark Paris Cop in 2015. The biggest unanswered question, however, is whether the talks will take place in person at all. In the past year, the world has grown used to virtual conferences. Zoom fatigue and online meeting etiquette are now the currency of work and social life. Major international meetings have taken place online for the first time: the UN general assembly last September, a virtual Davos and a White House climate summit last month. In these circumstances, a virtual Cop26 looks a good idea. Emissions are bouncing back from the pandemic plunge, so the world cannot afford to waste another year. A virtual Cop could take place whatever Covid-19 variants may emerge in the coming months, and would get round the tricky issues of vaccination passports and international travel from Covid-19 hotspots. A rising chorus of voices within Whitehall is calling for a virtual Cop26, in place of the messy uncertainty of an in-person Cop that may have to be called off anyway, if the pandemic takes a turn for the worse. Yet these calls should be resisted.
Guardian 12th May 2021 read more »