China on Tuesday said President Xi Jinping was not given an opportunity to deliver a video address to the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland and had to send a written response instead.
President Xi, who did not attend the UN meeting in person, delivered a written statement to the opening “high-level segment for heads of state and government” on Monday in which he offered no additional pledges, while urging countries to keep their promises and “strengthen mutual trust and cooperation”. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Tuesday at a regular briefing in Beijing “As I understand it, the conference organizers did not provide the video link method”.
Experts have expressed concern that Xi’s physical absence means China is not prepared to offer any more concessions during this round of talks. Xi, 68, has not travelled out of China ever since he returned from his official visit to Myanmar in the middle of January 2020, which is largely attributed to the coronavirus outbreak. Instead, he has been addressing global events through video links. On October 30, he addressed the G20 summit in Rome through a video link. Besides Xi, Russian President Vladimir Putin also chose to skip the all-important global climate meet, highlighting the emerging China-Russia strategic tie-up against the Biden-led US-EU alliance.
The absence of the top leader from China, which is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases besides the US, sparked off speculation about Beijing’s climate commitment amid official media reports it is seeking to link climate cooperation to the improvement of strained ties with the US. Ahead of the COP26 summit, China has submitted its updated emissions reduction commitment, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), to the United Nations last Thursday, which climate activists termed as modest and said it failed to improve China’s ambition by much. The updated document includes Xi’s pledge last September that China will reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve neutrality, also known as net-zero, before 2060.