Speculation is mounting about whether parts of the forthcoming COP26 Climate Summit could be moved online, as Covid-19 cases continue to soar around the world just eight months out from the vital global meeting that the UK is set to co-host in Glasgow.
The Sun newspaper reported last week that a Whitehall insider had revealed the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and COP26 President Alok Sharma were "fighting back hard" against UN officials who had suggested the format of the talks may have to change unless significant progress is made to curb the spread of the pandemic in the coming months.
"The UN are voicing concerns about doing it in person and Alok and the PM are fighting back hard," the source said. "They don't want it to be virtual but even if it's not as big as previous COPs, they feel it must be done face-to-face."
The report in The Sun was met with scepticism from some long-standing observers of UN climate talks, who pointed out no UN officials had been quoted in the article and noted that some influential parties at the UNFCCC climate secretariat remained opposed to the idea of online negotiations amidst fears they could sideline poorer nations.
However, fears remain that the event could yet turn into a global 'superspreader' event at a time when the spread of variants of the virus are widely regarded as the biggest threat to the vaccine rollout.