UK bids to host 2020 UN climate change summit

participants in the 2018 un climate change conference in katowice, poland
Participants in the 2018 UN climate change conference in Katowice, Poland. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Chile and Costa Rica thought to be considering alternative bids after Brazil withdrew offer

— Britain is bidding to host the UN climate change conference in 2020, the biggest since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015, as part of the government’s aim to be seen as a green leader.

The conference will mark a vital deadline for countries to comply with their commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and move on to tougher targets for the decade to 2030, and so it is likely to be a fractious affair.

If successful, the move would be a strong signal of the UK government’s determination to retain its role on the world stage after Brexit.

Claire Perry, the climate change minister, flew to Poland on Thursday after taking part in the Conservative party’s vote on Theresa May’s future, which she called “24 hours of political self-indulgence”.

Perry told journalists: “We have to make sure we can deliver a good COP [Conference of the Parties], as 2020 will be a really vital COP, and we absolutely want to be part of that process [of making it a success].”

She pointed to the UK’s efforts in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and investing in green jobs, saying Britain had decarbonised faster per unit of GDP than any other country in the past decade, and created 400,000 jobs in the low-carbon economy. “We have a really good track record in the UK,” she said.

In Poland, the UK joined with other EU member states and scores of developing countries in committing to scale up their ambition on climate change, with a focus on preventing global warming from breaching 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in line with scientific warnings.

The UN awards the hosting of the COP, as the annual meeting is known, usually by alternating among developed and developing countries, and different continents, though the rules can be somewhat flexible. Next year’s host was supposed to be Brazil, but the incoming president, Jair Bolsonaro, is hostile to the Paris agreement and has withdrawn the offer. Chile and Costa Rica are understood to be considering alternative bids.

Some campaigners at the current climate change talks in Poland, which have stalled over continuing disagreements on how to implement the Paris agreement, praised the UK’s move.

Gareth Redmond-King, the head of climate change at WWF UK, said: “This is great news and we welcome the bid to host the 2020 [conference]. It’s an opportunity for the UK to lead the way on climate change at a time when the need for action has never been starker.”

COP26, as the 2020 conference is known in UN jargon, will also be notable for the role of the US. Under Donald Trump’s presidency, the country has begun the process of withdrawal from the Paris agreement, but that could be halted if he is replaced in the 2020 election.

Bolsonaro has indicated he may take Brazil out of the Paris agreement, and the divisions between developed and developing countries that have characterised the current talks are likely to remain in the intervening years, giving the UK a diplomatic mountain to climb to make a success of the talks if awarded host-country status.


by Fiona Harvey | The Guardian