On April 1, the United Nations announced it would postpone this year’s climate change conference to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (UNFCCC). The talks, originally to be held November 9-20 in Glasgow, mark the five-year deadline for countries to update their national climate targets according to the Paris Agreement of 2015. Organizers of the 2020 conference called for an urgent ramp-up in climate ambitions in order to minimize global temperature rise (The Guardian, New York Times).

Analysts say the postponement to 2021 could significantly shift the political dynamics at the Glasgow conference. Although the United States began to withdraw from the Paris Agreement last year, if a Democratic candidate is elected in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, countries may be inclined to scale up climate efforts in anticipation of the U.S. rejoining. In addition, the need for many countries to put forth major economic stimulus packages due to the pandemic may reframe the negotiations around rebuilding climate-resilient economies (Reuters, BBC).

The week of March 30, Japan announced its revised climate target, which effectively maintained its original emissions plan (AP News). Frans Timmermans, the European Union’s climate chief, stated, “As for the European Commission, we will not slow down our work domestically or internationally to prepare for an ambitious COP26, when it takes place” (Reuters). The conference center in Glasgow intended for the November climate talks is currently being turned into an emergency field hospital for people with COVID-19 (New York Times).