Biden lashes out at Russia, China for skipping COP26
US president Joe Biden on November 2 said China and Russia were both shirking their global responsibilities with their decision not to send heads-of-state to the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
Biden was joined by president of the European Commission Ursula van der Leyen and UK prime minister Boris Johnson in introducing a climate-friendly infrastructure initiative, the Glasgow Breakthroughs, from the sidelines of the regular UN-backed climate conference in Scotland.
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The five-point Breakthroughs plan calls for “resilient, low- and zero-carbon infrastructure systems” that align with energy transition goals as well as the mobilisation of “trillions of dollars of capital” that would help global efforts to realise a net-zero economy by 2050.
Biden, Johnson and van der Leyen also hosted climate discussions with leaders from Canada, Japan and a handful of other leaders from Latin America, Africa and Asia. Missing from the overall COP26 summit were Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin, among others.
Biden took aim at Russia and China, among the main US adversaries, for not playing a direct role in the broader talks. China may be trying to build on its ascendant position on the global stage, Biden said, but not showing up was no way to advance a new role in the world.
Beijing had no comments on the rebuke, though the official Xinhua News Agency pointed to an editorial in UK’s left-wing daily Morning Star that suggested that blaming China for global woes “conveniently hides the real challenge that faces us.”
Putin had no rebuttal either. The Russian president did, however, attend the weekend summit of the G20 via video conference. In his statement to the group of leading economies, Putin said the low-carbon industry in the country was growing at a rapid pace.
“The share of energy generated from practically carbon-free sources such as nuclear power plants, hydroelectric dams, wind and solar power plants exceeds 40% today, or 86% if we include natural gas, which is the lowest-carbon fuel among hydrocarbons,” he said. “This is one of the best indicators in the world.”
Biden, meanwhile, joined the growing queue of world leaders offering pledges to address mounting climate concerns. A proposal unveiled November 2 seeks to limit methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
That proposal was met with domestic support and criticism alike. The American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing the business interests of hundreds of oil and gas companies, said it welcomed the initiative, though members of the Republican party, the opposition to Biden, said it was worried the measure could boost commodity prices at a time when crude oil, natural gas and retail road fuel prices are already at multi-year highs.
But stressing his agenda of re-establishing a dominant US role on the international stage, Biden said US visibility at COP26 and its stated goals shows that it was in a leadership position.
“It was critically important for the United States to be here at COP26, (moving) back in the Paris Agreement, raising domestic climate ambitions and demonstrating a commitment to support the rest of the world, particularly those countries that are on the frontlines of the climate crisis,” he said.