BONN, Germany, October 27, 2020 (ENS) – The Climate Dialogues, a series of virtual climate change events, will be offered by the United Nations from November 23 to December 4, 2020. This year, virtual events are taking the place of the annual in-person UN climate change conference, so that all work on implementing the Paris climate accord does not grind to a halt in the face of the pandemic.

Originally scheduled for November 2020, the 26th annual UN climate change conference, COP26, and all associated sessions have been postponed to 2021, due to the current health and safety measures now in place worldwide to manage the pandemic.

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Smokestack emits polluting gases at sunrise in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, December 7, 2014 (Photo by Thomas Hawke)

The Climate Dialogues will enable government Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, and other climate stakeholders to continue exchanging views and sharing information to advance work and maintain momentum in the intergovernmental climate change process that has been so altered by the pandemic.

“Covid-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term,” said Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC executive secretary. “Soon, economies will restart. This is a chance for nations to recover better, to include the most vulnerable in those plans, and a chance to shape the 21st-century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, just, safe and more resilient.”

The Dialogues are an integral part of the United Nations process for implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which took effect on November 4, 2016. They will serve as a key platform for participants to showcase how climate action is progressing under the challenging circumstances caused by COVID-19.

The Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal is challenging enough. It is to keep the increase in global average temperature to less than 2°Celsius (3.6°Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F), recognizing that this would reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

The Climate Dialogues will showcase progress toward this goal made in 2020, including technical work under the UNFCCC constituted bodies – the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, SBSTA, and the Subsidiary Body of Implementation, SBI.

The Dialogues are being held in collaboration with the COP25 Presidency and incoming COP26 Presidency and with the support of the UNFCCC secretariat.

COP25, the 25th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, was held in Madrid, Spain, from December 2 to 13, 2019 under the presidency of the Chilean government, just before the novel coronavirus broke out.

The UN will skip the 2020 Climate Change conference this year in favor of keeping safe with virtual events such as the Climate Dialogues. It was expected to be the largest summit the UK had ever hosted, with over 30,000 delegates, including world leaders, experts, campaigners and government officials.

Instead, COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, will be held in Glasgow, Scotland from November 1 to 12, 2021 under the presidency of the UK Government, with assistance from the Scottish Government. It is to be the first global stocktaking that was outlined in the Paris Agreement.

The venue, the SEC Centre in downtown Glasgow, was converted in May into a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients, another example of the barriers the pandemic has placed in front of the UN’s climate plans.

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Alex Sharma will preside over the next UN climate conference, COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021 (Photo courtesy UK Government)

UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma, a Conservative MP, has been named COP26 president,

“We will be building on efforts to urge all countries to bring forward ambitious plans to curb their emissions ahead of the event itself,” Sharma said. “It is vital everyone comes together to deliver the change needed to tackle climate change and protect our planet.”

The Climate Dialogues are intended to provide a platform to enable progress in implementation of the multitude of other activities under the Convention mandated for 2020: slashing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the effects of climate change, science, finance, technology, capacity-building, transparency, gender, Action for Climate Empowerment, and the preparation and submission of updated national climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs, that are due to be submitted by the end of this year.

The Climate Dialogues form part of the continuum of high-profile events convened under the UNFCCC in the second half of this year, starting with the Race to Zero, spearheaded by the Climate Champions, focusing on action.

Race to Net-Zero Emissions By 2050

Race To Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.

Race To Zero has gathered a coalition of leading net-zero initiatives, representing 452 cities, 22 regions, 1,101 businesses, 45 of the biggest investors, and 549 universities.

These participants join 120 countries in the largest ever alliance committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. Collectively these actors now cover nearly 25 percent global CO2 emissions and over 50 percent GDP.

Race To Zero is led by the High-Level Climate Champions for Climate Action – Nigel Topping, the former CEO of We Mean Business, and Gonzalo Muñoz, who reinvented Chile’s recycling industry.

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Wind turbines spin in the sunrise as seen from Haysham looking East over Lancaster, England, Oct. 7, 2020 (Photo by Rab Lawrence)

The idea behind Race To Zero is to mobilize actors outside of national governments to join the Climate Ambition Alliance, which was launched at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit 2019 by Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera.

Race To Zero aims to build momentum around the shift to a decarbonized economy ahead of COP26, where governments will strengthen their contributions to the Paris Agreement. This is expected to send governments a resounding signal that businesses, cities, regions and investors are united in meeting the goals of the Paris climate accord and in creating a more inclusive and resilient global economy.

Click here for information about how to get involved in the Race To Zero.

The Dialogues will then focus on guidance, support and engagement under the intergovernmental process. These events will culminate with a celebration of the Paris Agreement on December 12 that will highlight ambition.

The format of events will range from mandated events for 2020, to meetings and events by the constituted bodies, informal consultations by the presiding officers with the government Parties, as well as a series of technical workshops.

Formal negotiations and decision-making are not planned for Climate Dialogue events. The list of events for the Climate Dialogues with their format and tentative dates is online here.

The Climate Dialogues build on the successful series of virtual events organized under the June Momentum for Climate Change held earlier this year.

At the June Momentum’s virtual closing event on June 12, the SBSTA Chair, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, emphasized to participants in the global climate community that, “While the future months are still full of uncertainty, our responsibilities in the new reality have not gone away.”

As the SBI Chair, Marianne Karslen of Norway, told participants in the same event, “It’s time we not only speak through our agreements but through our action and implementation.”

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