Beijing reacted to US criticisms of Xi Jinping's absence at the COP26 climate summit. It stated that the Chinese president wasn't allowed to participate on the main stage via video link.
This has made it difficult to focus on the crucial question of whether countries are doing enough to stop global warming.
Over 100 world leaders gathered in Glasgow to discuss climate goals and make speeches at the World Leaders Summit on Monday and Tuesday.
However, Xi has not left China since the Covid-19 pandemic began. He submitted a written statement, raising questions about China's participation.
Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, stated that the conference host did not offer the option of videoconference participation.
On Tuesday, Joe Biden, the US president, criticized Russia and Saudi Arabia for not attending the summit hosted at the UK and UN.
China is trying to claim a new position as a global leader but it's not showing up. You have to be serious. Biden stated that climate is the single most important issue that has attracted the attention of the entire world in his last press conference before he left Glasgow. They have left it at that.
Xi Jinping and the former US president Barack Obama teamed-up ahead of the 2015 Paris climate agreement Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Wang said in a Wednesday press conference that the US, which is the largest cumulative emitter, of greenhouse gases should accept its historical responsibilities, and have greater ambitions to reduce its emissions. . . Slogans cannot be used as a substitute for action.
Alok Sharma, UK's COP president, confirmed the fact that no country had been given the option of joining the World Leaders Summit via video link.
This issue has been a key focus of our organization from the beginning. He said that we always stated that participation at the World Leaders Summit would be physical. We had 120 leaders attend. . . Some of them have had to make a difficult journey to get here.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin sent a message via video that was shown on a side-summit but not on the main stage.
The two largest emitters of carbon in the world, China and the United States are often the focal point for COP summits. Xi and the former president Barack Obama teamed-up ahead of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
However, public anger has been growing ahead of the COP due to disputes over security and trade as well as domestic audiences.
The environmentalists are increasingly worried that climate negotiations will be hampered by insufficient leadership from the two largest economies. Despite a series meeting this year between John Kerry, Xie Zhanghua and the US climate envoys, China and the US, this is despite the fact that the two countries have held several meetings.
After Biden's comments, Li Shuo, a Greenpeace energy policy officer, stated that broader geopolitical tensions with the US and China were seeping into the COP negotiations.
Li Shuo said that we are in a pot calling the kettle black situation. You can see what they are doing at their home and it is clear that neither the US nor China are in a position to lead [on climate].
China has struggled with energy shortages leading up to the conference. The government decided to increase coal production to counter Beijing's long-term climate goals.
Tensions rising with key suppliers of fossilfuels, including the US and Australia have highlighted the vulnerability Beijing has in relying on other countries to provide fossil fuels.
With the economic slowdown, important political events, and any major push for energy, the leadership is extremely cautious, according to Isabel Hilton, founder of China Dialogue.
Xizhou Zhou (Vice-President, Climate and Sustainability Group, IHS Markit) stated that China was increasing its coal production but it was also limiting heavy industry demand.
He said that the Chinese steel industry uses as much electricity as Germany. Therefore, by rationing their power supply the energy crunch can greatly be moderated without the need to increase coal use.
Zhou said that the Chinese delegation at COP26 will need to convince their counterparts about the importance of the demand management component.
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