In a serious blow to Boris Johnson’s hopes of getting global agreement to a significant climate change deal, Russian president Vladimir Putin has announced he will not attend next month’s United Nations Cop26 summit hosted by the prime minister in Glasgow.
Confirmation from the Kremlin of Mr Putin’s snub comes amid widespread expectation that Chinese president Xi Jinping will also not travel to Glasgow for the crucial gathering, at which Mr Johnson hopes to seal an ambitious deal to keep global warming below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and to provide $100bn a year to help less-developed countries prepare.
There are fears in London that the absence of key power players from the two-week summit, beginning in 11 days’ time, will make it more difficult to get agreement on thorny issues like stepping up reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and switching from polluting fossil fuels to greener sources of energy.
Russia is among a number of crucial major polluters which are yet to provide enhanced climate pledges – known as “nationally defined contributions” or NDCs – to improve on promises made in the Paris accord of 2015.
“Unfortunately, Putin will not fly to Glasgow,” a spokesperson for the Kremlin told reporters on Wednesday, according to the AFP agency, but added that climate change was “one of our foreign policy’s most important priorities”.
The Russian president is also due to announce new nationwide restrictions and is expected to decide whether to introduce a week-long holiday at the end of October.
Attempting to set the stage for the conference, the UK government published long-delayed documents on Tuesday setting out the strategy for reaching the net zero target 2050, but Mr Johnson was urged to go “further and faster” by climate campaigners.
While proposals to replace polluting gas boilers, support the switch to electric cars and to plant millions of trees were welcomed, critics warned the package was over-cautious, with one expert saying it was more in tune with limiting global warming to 2.5-3C, rather than the 1.5C maximum that is the goal of next month’s crucial UN Cop26 summit in Glasgow.
Asked if Mr Johnson was disappointed that Mr Putin would not attend in person, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The prime minister has said before that we would obviously strongly encourage leaders to attend, given this is a very critical moment in terms of tackling climate change.
“The prime minister is looking forward to meeting all leaders who have confirmed their attendance, which I believe is over 120 so far. And we obviously expect all countries to be represented at a senior level, given that we’re asking for meaningful pledges towards tackling this issue.”
The spokesperson was unable to say who No 10 was expecting to represent Russia in Mr Putin’s absence.
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