UN Cancels In-Person Preliminary Meetings for Climate Summit Due to Coronavirus

Delegates leave after the closing session of last December’s UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid.
Delegates leave after the closing session of last December’s UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid.
Photo: Getty

Due to mounting coronavirus concerns, the United Nations announced Friday that it’s canceling in-person meetings in Bonn, Germany and elsewhere through the end of April. These meetings were intended to prepare for November’s global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, predicted to be the most important round of climate negotiations since 2015's Paris accord.


“This exceptional measure aims to contain the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard the health and safety of participants attending UNFCCC meetings in Bonn and elsewhere,” said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), per a Reuters report.

It’s the latest in a string of high-profile event cancellations, including Google I/O, Mobile World Congress, and SXSW, as event organizers worldwide fear such large congregations may create a hotbed for transmission of the novel coronavirus. And with compulsory quarantines in effect for this Bonn conference, the UN said it risked not having enough attendees to meet quorum requirements.


“Our task is made more difficult by the postponement of many meetings due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, per Reuters. “But even as we work to contain and address the virus, we must also look to use every opportunity to build our climate action agenda.”

While these cancellations aren’t likely to derail preparatory procedures too severely, if the UN extends its moratorium into June, however, there could be a problem, Jennifer Tollmann, a policy adviser with international climate change think tank E3G, told Reuters. In the first two weeks of June, climate envoys from around the world are scheduled to converge on Bonn to hash out outstanding issues before November’s summit.

To date, more than 100,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported worldwide, spanning 92 countries. More than 600 cases have been confirmed in Germany, according to the World Health Organization’s latest situation report.

Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance games reporter. Full-time disaster bi.

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Ironically, climate change is not enough to keep them from flying jets from around the world to meet about climate change. Only fear of death by disease can force them to teleconference. Death by climate change? Not so much.