The COVID-19 pandemic with its devastating impact on people’s lives, livelihoods and economies has confused humanity’s plans for 2020, including those related to globally significant forums. However, it has not slowed the pace of climate change, which poses an ever-growing threat to human health, employment and security.
According to scientific data provided in UN documents, temperature indicators are breaking all records, the concentration of greenhouse gases is increasing, the sea level is rising, and natural disasters are becoming more destructive. As the world is combating the pandemic and makes plans for the post-COVID period, the UN is bringing all nations and peoples together in their efforts to address the world’s climate emergency so that no one is left behind.
The UN Climate Change Conference COP26, to be held from on November 1-12 2021 in Glasgow, UK, in partnership with Italy, is intended to be an important milestone in this effort. It was originally scheduled for November 2020, but due to the pandemic, by the decision of the COP Bureau of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), it was postponed for a year.
The 197-member UNFCCC has actually universal membership and is the original treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The main goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the average global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius, and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels.
The UNFCCC is also the original treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The ultimate goal of all treaties under the UNFCCC is to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, in a time frame that allows ecosystems to naturally adapt and ensure sustainable development.
In 2020, the UK and Italy, which were to host the UN Climate Conference, were hit hard by the pandemic, and the conference venue, the SEC Center in Glasgow, was transformed into a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients in May 2020.
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinoza tweeted that “in light of the ongoing global impact of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, comprehensive COP26 in November 2020 is not possible”. She also pointed out that when the economy reses, it will provide an opportunity to “shape the 21st century economy so that it is clean, green, healthy, fair, secure and more sustainable”.
Changing the schedule for the Global Climate Conference will allow all parties to focus on the issues on its agenda and provide more time to carry out the necessary preparatory activities, take into account the political events of the year such as the election results in the US.
As is known, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement, while the winning Joe Biden and his supporters promise to join the Paris Agreement and strengthen ambitions to reduce emissions.
Until November 2021, the UK Presidency of the Conference will continue to work with all stakeholders to strengthen action to combat climate change, improve sustainability and reduce emissions. The new date will also allow the UK and Italy to leverage their G7 and G20 presidency, respectively, to pursue climate ambitions.
As COP26 President and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma said, “While we are rightly focused on tackling the immediate coronavirus crisis, we must not lose sight of the enormous climate change challenges. Now that a new timeline for COP26 has been agreed, we are working with our international partners on an ambitious roadmap for global action to control climate change until November 2021. The steps we are taking to recover our economies will have a profound impact on the future sustainability, resilience and wellbeing of our societies, and COP26 could be the moment the world unites for a clean, sustainable recovery”.
Following the announcement of the COP26 date postponement in May 2020, the UN issued a climate press release noting that, despite the COVID-19 crisis, important work to control climate change under the auspices of the UNFCCC continued. Views and information were exchanged at technical meetings and policy discussions to maintain momentum and demonstrate how climate action is progressing in the special circumstances the world is currently facing.
Further steps will also include the preparation and submission of nationally determined contributions.
Turkmenistan, implementing its national development programs, fully aligns them with the UN 2030 Agenda and climate change strategies. The National Strategy on Climate Change was adopted, which is the basis for the shaping and implementation of the state policy of Turkmenistan in the field of climate change and its aftermaths. In the international arena, this Strategy reflects the country’s negotiating position and represents a basic document for reporting on the implementation of obligations under the global climate agreements.
In February 2020, Turkmenistan took part in the high-level conference “Green Central Asia” and the 9th meeting of the working group of the European Union and Central Asian countries on environment and climate change. At these meetings, the Turkmen party put forward proposals on the development of a regional strategy for adaptation to climate change, taking into account the peculiarities of ecosystems in Central Asia and reducing climate risks, projects on integrated water resources management and the implementation of the Sub-regional Action Plan to Combat Desertification.
As was noted in the priority positions of Turkmenistan at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, Turkmenistan pays special attention in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to continuing a multilateral dialogue on climate change, environmental preservation, rational use of natural resources and ensuring environmental safety.
Considering that the coronavirus pandemic poses a particular danger to regions exposed to serious environmental risks, Turkmenistan calls on the world community to pay close attention to the environmental disaster of the Aral Sea. During the 75th session of the General Assembly, Turkmenistan continued to implement the initiative put forward by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov at the Rio + 20 Sustainable Development Summit to create a UN Special Programme for the Aral Sea Basin.
Based on the resolutions of the General Assembly on cooperation between the United Nations and the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) adopted on April 12, 2018 and May 28, 2019, it is planned to submit to the next session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in May 2021 an initial draft of the concept and structure of the future Special Programme.
Taking into account the factor of the direct impact of the negative aftereffects of the Aral ecological catastrophe on air pollution and human health, Turkmenistan, as part of the 75th session of the General Assembly, intends to submit a proposal to organize, in cooperation with WHO and the UN Environment Programme, international research to study the correlation of air pollution with the incidence of infectious, oncological and cardiovascular diseases.
The country considers the conservation of biodiversity and ecological balance in the Caspian Sea as one of the priority environmental objectives. At present, Turkmenistan has developed a Concept for a new Caspian environmental programme.