China made ‘a big mistake’ by ‘not showing up’ to the UN climate conference

GLASGOW, Scotland – President Biden criticized China on Tuesday night, saying at the UN climate conference that “it has been a big mistake, quite frankly, for China … not to show up” for the event, also known as COP26.

In response to a journalist’s question at a Glasgow press conference, Biden acknowledged that the momentum of the conference has been slowed by the fact that top executives in some major countries are not attending the event.

“China and Russia are not showing up and Saudi Arabia is not showing up is a problem,” Biden said.

President Biden stands on a podium giving a speech at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

President Biden will deliver a speech at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday. (Evan Vucci / AFP via Getty Images)

“We showed up. We showed up,” he said, repeating himself to emphasize. its leadership role. “

A top priority for the US delegation at the conference has been to re-establish US leadership in the fight against climate change following the withdrawal of then-President Donald Trump from the Paris Agreement in 2020.

Biden apparently hoped that by boasting of the prestige his leadership in dealing with climate change has brought to the United States, he could encourage China and Russia, which see themselves as world powers in competition with the United States.

“The rest of the world will look to China and say, ‘What value added are they providing?'” Biden said. “And they have lost the ability to influence people all over the world, and all the people here at the COP. The same, I would argue, with regard to Russia. “

China is currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases causing global warming, while the United States is the other. Russia is the fourth largest and Saudi Arabia is in ninth place. Russia and Saudi Arabia are also both major producers of oil and gas for export, while China manufactures products that are consumed worldwide, so the extent of the three countries’ participation in COP26 is important for the outcome.

A commuter wears a protective mask while standing and waiting at a traffic light during a seasonal sandstorm on April 15 in Beijing.

A commuter is wearing a protective mask while waiting at a traffic light during a seasonal sandstorm on April 15 in Beijing. (Kevin Frayer / Getty Images)

Technically, all three countries participate in COP26, but their heads of state are not there in person, and all three have made only lukewarm, relatively unambitious promises to reduce their own future emissions. China and Saudi Arabia, along with Australia and Japan, have also lobbied behind the scenes to set a less ambitious target that limits the average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius instead of the 1.5 degrees Celsius that researchers say is needed to avert catastrophic effects from climate change.

Later, in response to another question, Biden returned to the topic of China’s engagement.

“I think, presumptuous of me to say, to speak for another leader, but the fact that China is trying to assert a new role, understandably, in the world as a world leader and not show up? Come on,” Biden said. with clear disappointment.

“The only thing that has gotten the world’s attention is the climate, everywhere from Iceland to Australia. You know what I mean? It’s just a giant question. And they went away,” Biden said. “How do you do that and claim to be able to have any leadership?”

Biden had issued a similar complaint against China and Russia on Sunday in Rome, and he returned to Russia again in his comments on Tuesday.

“Same with [President Vladimir] Putin and Russia: His tundra is burning. Literally, the tundra is burning, ”said Biden. “He has serious, serious climate issues. And he is the mother of the willingness to do anything. “

Global temperatures are rising and have been for decades. Step into the data and see the extent of climate change.

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