May 28 (Reuters) - The United Nations has delayed until late 2021 a crucial climate summit that had been scheduled for Britain this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said on Thursday.
Billed as the most important climate change summit since the 2015 talks that produced the Paris Agreement, this year's meeting - known as COP26 - had been expected to deliver fresh pledges from hundreds of world leaders to slash greenhouse gas emissions more rapidly as public pressure builds for stronger global climate action.
The summit will be rescheduled a year later to Nov. 1 to 12, 2021, the U.N.'s climate body decided on Thursday, after the British government proposed these dates.
British climate official Alok Sharma said the delay would give countries time to rebuild economies with climate change prioritized.
Glasgow, Scotland will remain the host city. A warm-up summit will take place in Italy before the Glasgow summit.
This year's COP26 summit was supposed to serve as a deadline for governments to commit to more aggressive emissions-cutting goals, which are needed to deliver the Paris Agreement's target to cap global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius and aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.
Current pledges put the world on track for roughly 3 degrees Celsius of warming this century - a level scientists say would have severe consequences for sea-level rise, extreme weather events and mass migration as people flee regions made uninhabitable by climate change.
Campaigners said the summit's delay should not change the obligation for countries to set new climate targets by the end of this year.
They urged governments to design stimulus packages to steer virus-hit economies onto a low-carbon path - a move proposed by leaders in the European Union, which on Wednesday pledged to tie a 750 billion euro recovery fund to climate goals.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett in Britain and Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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