UK insists Cop26 climate change summit will go ahead as planned

Summit chief Alok Sharma warns 'climate crisis has not abated' as new study highlights dangers facing wildlife

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 13: Activist hold a demonstration marking the delayed COP26 UN climate negotiations  on November 13, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. The 26th United Nations Climate Change conference would have taken place this month, but was delayed for a year due to the covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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The UK is resisting pressure to delay the Cop26 climate change summit in November amid concern over the spread of coronavirus.

Cop26 president Alok Sharma told members of Parliament on Wednesday that Britain was working hard to hold an in-person event despite many countries battling a surge in numbers of Covid-19 cases.

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg said last week she would skip the UN summit in protest over the inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

She said the UK government should delay Cop26 until global inoculation rates increased.

The November meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, was planned for 2020, but was postponed because of the pandemic.

Mr Sharma said a physical meeting was still the preferred option.

"We are working very hard to ensure we deliver an in-person Cop, which allows all countries to participate on an equal footing," he said.

"This is incredibly important as many parties feel strongly that negotiations must be in person.”

Asked whether the summit would go ahead, Mr Sharma said climate change was a pressing issue.

“Cop26 has already been postponed by one year and the urgency of the climate crisis has not abated,” he said.

"I don't sense any desire among parties for a further postponement and we're working very hard to ensure that we have an in-person, physical Cop, taking into account, of course, any Covid-related contingencies.”

The summit will bring together the heads of state, climate experts and campaigners to discuss co-ordinated action on climate change.

Britain is hoping to secure commitment from many nations for emissions reductions ahead of the event.

Mr Sharma’s confidence that the event would continue as planned comes as a new study found that British woodlands were facing danger from climate change, habitat damage and nitrogen pollution.

The Woodland Trust charity said only 7 per cent of the UK’s native woodland was in sound ecological condition.

It said efforts to tackle climate change were being undermined by imported diseases, invasive plants and direct loss of woodland to development.

Separately, the study said spring was occurring 8.4 days earlier, upsetting the feeding habits of native wildlife.

Species that live in woods were in steep decline, with a 29 per cent reduction in woodland birds since 1970 and butterflies down 41 per cent since 1990. The number of plant species has fallen 18 per cent since 2015, the report found.

Woodland Trust director of conservation Abi Bunker told of the seriousness of the problem confronting woodlands.

"They are approaching crisis point, and we need – even if just for our own survival as a human race – to take note and do something about it now,” she said.