LONDON (Reuters) - Governments must not let the coronavirus pandemic derail action on climate change, an architect of the landmark Paris agreement warned on Wednesday, saying the vulnerabilities laid bare by the virus could serve to spur a more concerted response.
Laurence Tubiana, a former French diplomat who was instrumental in brokering the 2015 accord aimed at averting catastrophic global warming, said the disruption caused by the coronavirus was a wake-up call.
“In a way, it’s a lesson: viruses don’t respect borders, climate change doesn’t respect borders,” Tubiana, who continues to closely track climate diplomacy, told an online briefing. “If we do not manage the climate crisis it will be the same.”
Tubiana was speaking amid mounting concerns that the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus could tempt governments to shy away from the massive effort to cut carbon emissions needed to stabilise the Earth’s climate system.
U.N. officials say plans are still in place to hold a major summit in Glasgow in November, the most important since the Paris deal was struck, although preliminary meetings have been cancelled, postponed or moved online until the end of April.
“I think it’s a bit premature to speak about postponement,” said a spokesman for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which oversees climate negotiations, referring to the Glasgow summit.
Nearly 200 countries pledged to curb their national emissions under the Paris accord, but they need to radically toughen their pledges to avoid temperature increases that scientists say could render swathes of the planet uninhabitable.
“The climate crisis hasn’t gone away,” said Tubiana, who now heads the European Climate Foundation, a non-profit organisation, adding that the virus had shown the “vulnerability of the international system in a very, very violent way.”
Climate campaigners are also concerned over the possible fate of an EU-China summit due to take place in Germany in September, seen as an important opportunity to coordinate action on emissions.
A preparatory EU-China summit that had been due to take place in Beijing later this month has already been postponed, the European Commision confirmed on Tuesday.
Reporting by Kate Abnett; Writing by Matthew Green; Editing by Hugh Lawson
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