President Joe Biden has lashed out at both his Chinese and Russian counterparts Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin for their failure to turn up to the COP26 climate summit.
Addressing reporters at the end of the second day of the climate conference in Glasgow, the president of the United States said China had “walked away” on the biggest issue of our time and described President Xi’s absence as a “big mistake”.
The US president then went on to attack Russia for not committing to ambitious climate goals.
President Biden went on to suggest that “China has lost influence” in not accepting the invitation to attend the event.
“America showed up and decided to lead,” he added.
“By showing up, I think we had a profound impact on the way, I think, the rest of the world is looking at the United States and its leadership,” he told the news conference in Glasgow.
“I think it has been a mistake, quite frankly, with respect to China, not showing up.
“They have the lost the ability to influence people around the world and here in COP. The same way I would argue with Russia.”
Asked why the US should set such ambitious targets when nations such as Russia and China do not, he told reporters: “Because we want to be able to breathe.”
On the second day of the climate conference, there have been pledges on deforestation, methane and climate finance.
Highlights from the conference so far include:
• The summit’s first major announcement came in the form of more than 100 countries representing 85% of the world’s forests agreeing to end and reverse deforestation by 2030 – with £14bn ($19.2bn) in public and private funding behind it
• Scores of world leaders signed a pledge to slash potent climate heating gas methane by 30% by 2030, a “low hanging fruit” when it comes to slowing warming in the short-term. It could shave 0.1-0.2 degrees off global warming
• Japan committed extra $10bn climate finance over five years, meaning rich countries could hit $100bn a year target one year sooner than expected, US climate envoy John Kerry said, as it “has the ability to leverage” a further $8bn
• Over 40 world leaders back plan to fund clean technology around the world by 2030, the UK government announced
• India finally came forward with a net zero promise – the 2070 target is 20 years later than the key 2050 date but still a big step forward, especially with its commitment to significantly slash emissions by 2030
• Boris Johnson warned the 1.5 degrees target is the difference ‘between life and death’
• Five countries, including Britain and the United States, and a group of global charities promised $1.7bn to support indigenous people’s conservation of forests and strengthen their land rights
However, there are still difficult negotiations ahead, particularly on climate finance.
President Biden urged world leaders to ensure it is “a decisive decade of action” when it comes to tackling global warming, stressing that it is “not just a moral imperative, it’s an economic imperative as well”.
He told reporters that he had not seen any other two day period with as much progress on the issue of climate change as COP26 so far.
The US president added that the conference represents “an opportunity” for great progress, adding that there is “a lot more to do”.
“We have to keep accelerating our progress,” he said.
“For our part, the United States is going to keep raising the ambition and delivering a goal that we are reducing US emissions by 50% from the 2005 level by 2030.”
Speaking earlier on Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed concerns that Chinese President Xi’s absence from the summit has hampered its chance of success, saying it “doesn’t mean the Chinese are not engaging”.
Mr Johnson said China has already made “a substantial commitment” in pledging to move to net zero by 2060 or before, but added that more “commitments” are needed.
“China has fantastic power to make change in the way it runs its economy, they’ve committed to no new financing of overseas coal, that’s a big change already, you’re starting to see the impact of that Chinese decision to stop financing coal overseas in the whole Asia Pacific region already,” he said.