Australian PM says he will attend Cop26 climate summit, as doubts grow over China’s Xi Jinping

Boris Johnson has been reportedly told about China’s Jinping not attending summit

Shweta Sharma
Friday 15 October 2021 11:08
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<p>Street artists paint a mural on a wall opposite the Cop26 climate summit venue in Glasgow</p>

Street artists paint a mural on a wall opposite the Cop26 climate summit venue in Glasgow

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has finally confirmed he will attend the  Cop26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, even as uncertainty persists over China’s Xi Jinping attendance at the event.

Describing it as an “important event,” Mr Morrison said on Friday: "I confirmed my attendance at the Glasgow summit, which I’m looking forward to attending.”

Britain is set to host the United Nations-led 26th summit United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26 in its largest city Glasgow between 31 October to 12 November.

The world leaders from about 200 countries will meet to negotiate key climate deals in global efforts to prevent global environmental disaster.

Mr Morrision faced global backlash last month when he indicated he might not attend the talks and faced pressure from allies, including the US and UK, to commit to more ambitious climate action.

The much-anticipated decision comes after weeks of initial hesitancy and uncertainty about his in-person attendance of the conference as his government is yet to reach an agreement over a draft plan for the country to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Morrison took an about-turn on Friday from his previous plans indicating skipping the event despite being a large producer of coal and gas.

But, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, China has made clear that it will miss the conference, a source told The Times, in a major blow to global leaders’ ambitious plans to tackle climate change.

"It is now pretty clear that Xi is not going to turn up and the PM [Boris Johnson] has been told that," the newspaper quoted an unidentified British source as saying. "What we do not know is what stance the Chinese are going to take."

As the world’s top CO2 emitter, China is among the handful countries including Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia that have not submitted a new carbon-cutting plan.

Given its contribution to global warming, China plays a decisive role in the 2015 Paris Agreement pledge to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Beijing’s attempt to snub the meeting could be a prelude to it refusing to set new climate change goals amid an energy crisis, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, Australia’s decision to attend Cop2 came amid pressure from allies as the country has not committed to set ambitious targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 despite being the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita.

Mr Morrison said his government’s next climate plan would protect the interests of "rural and regional" Australians who complain that they have borne the brunt of previous reforms.

Australia has a majority of rural areas that are dependent on coal, gas and farming.

"It’s not just about hitting net zero. That’s an important environmental goal,” he said. "What’s important is that Australia‘s economy goes from strength to strength."

Reducing emissions targets is a politically fraught issue in Australia as the government’s rural-based junior coalition partner, the Nationals party, remains a major obstacle to the plans.

"The government will be finalising its position to take to the summit. We’re working through those issues," Mr Morrison said on Friday.

Previously, Mr Morrison cited challenges posed by Covid for missing the summit. Vladimir Putin is another major world leader who might not attend the conference over fears of coronavirus. Pope Francis is also expected to be absent from the event.

Additional reporting by agencies

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