US, China and India snub Boris Johnson’s climate meeting

Big emitters no-show at meeting to build ambition ahead of key UN climate talks.

US, China and India snub Boris Johnson’s climate meeting

The leaders of big polluters China, India and the U.S. will all swerve a climate meeting hosted by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in New York on Monday.

Johnson will “press countries to deliver on their commitments” to cut emissions and deliver on finance for developing countries ahead of the COP26 climate talks in November, a Downing Street spokesperson said. 

Around 15 leaders are expected in the room on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, with several more joining virtually. The attendance is set to be dominated by leaders from countries most affected by climate change, but with little power to stop it from occurring.

Confirmed attendees include Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, President of Colombia Iván Duque Márquez and several leaders from small island states. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will also be there.

The list doesn’t include China’s President Xi Jinping nor India’s Narendra Modi, a Whitehall official said. Joe Biden will also give the meeting a miss. The U.S. president’s public schedule has him at his beach house in Delaware on Monday morning. He is due to head to New York and the U.N. that afternoon. All three were invited to attend.

“I am very worried,” Guterres said on Friday. “Because I feel that there is a lack of trust between developed and developing countries, especially countries, for instance at the G7 and countries of the emerging economies, the BASIC group,” which includes China and India.

Guterres said he had hoped Monday’s meeting would “build trust.” Instead, the big economies will not show up.

China and India have so far refused to publish new plans to cut their emissions. Shifting these major polluters is one of the key tasks for COP26 and the failure to do so was the major reason why the U.N. said on Friday the world was on track to blow past the Paris Agreement targets for limiting warming and likely hit 2.7 degrees warming by the end of the century.

“The ball is very much in their court,” COP26 President Alok Sharma told Sky News of the Chinese.

But, if anything, engagement from Asia’s coal giants is waning. Xi snubbed a climate meeting of leaders hosted by Biden on Friday. He has not yet confirmed his attendance at COP26, Sharma said.

Xi will appear virtually to give China’s address at the General Assembly on Tuesday, Chinese media reported, after reports that he may send a minister.

Modi has made clear that India wants to see rich countries meet their financial commitments before India moves on its emissions.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is under pressure from the EU and U.K. to raise its climate finance for developing countries. Guterres joined that chorus on Friday, telling reporters: “We need a stronger engagement of the U.S., namely in financing for development.” The U.N. chief also said: “We need an additional effort from China in relation to emissions.”

During the flight to New York, Johnson dampened hopes that COP26 would deliver on a promise to give $100 billion to poorer countries — stating he thought there was a 6-in-10 chance of success. On Monday, Oxfam said that milestone may still not be met in 2025, without a marked shift.

One of the slowest movers on finance in Europe has been Italy. Minister for Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani said his government would come forward with a new climate finance offer before it hosts the leaders of the G20 in Rome the weekend before COP26. Cingolani said he would recommend Prime Minister Mario Draghi double Italy’s current contribution, which is around €500 million a year. 

“I would push to make a very strong effort and go towards the billion,” he said.

But Guterres said it was the biggest countries that mattered most. “If the present mistrust is maintained, if the financial problems are not properly addressed, and if many emerging economies think that because of that, they are not supposed also to make an additional effort, we risk [reaching] tipping points that make the 1.5 degrees target unreachable.”

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Boris Johnson defends ‘global warming skeptic’ trade minister

British PM arrives in New York sounding pessimistic about his prospects at the United Nations General Assembly.

Boris Johnson defends ‘global warming skeptic’ trade minister

NEW YORK — It takes one to know one — as Boris Johnson can attest.  

The British prime minister is no stranger to comments made in the past coming back to haunt him and as he crossed the Atlantic to pitch the world on climate at the United Nations General Assembly, he defended his new trade minister over hers.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, freshly promoted to U.K. secretary of state for trade, sent numerous tweets a decade ago claiming global warming was a myth. “We aren’t getting hotter, global warming isn’t actually happening,” read one of her missives. Another condemned “doom-mongers and global warming fanatics” who insist the ice caps are melting.  

The revelations are embarrassing for Johnson, who hopes to galvanize other nations to redouble their efforts in the fight against climate change.

Asked about the Trevelyan tweets on the flight to the summit, Johnson quipped: “I don’t want to encourage you, but if you were to excavate some of my articles from 20 years ago you might find comments I made obiter dicta about climate change that weren’t entirely supportive of the current struggle.” 

He added that “the facts change, and people change their minds and change their views and that’s very important too.” 

It wasn’t clear which changed facts Johnson was referring to. Climate science has for years been very clear on the role played by humans. In a 2007 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the world’s go-to body on climate science — stated the heating planet was “very likely” caused by human-induced emissions. It pointed out that the 11 warmest years on record had occurred in the previous 12 years.

In a statement earlier this week, Trevelyan insisted “climate change and protecting the environment will remain a priority as I negotiate ambitious trade deals around the world.” 

Johnson arrived in New York sounding downbeat about the prospects of progress on climate change.

The U.K. prime minister admitted there was a strong chance global nations would fail to build the £100 billion environmental finance fund he has been hoping for, telling journalists there was just a 60 percent chance of getting the cash over the line before the COP26 global climate summit in November.

“I think getting it all this week is going to be a stretch — but I think getting it all done by COP … 6 out of 10,” he said. “It’s going to be tough. But people need to understand that this is crucial for the world.” 

He said he would urge other nations to “step up to the plate” on climate issues such as coal, and on supporting developing countries to embrace greener growth. He argued some nations were doing their bit, but some G20 countries need to do more, adding: “We’ll be making that argument and set that out strongly in the next few days.” 

Johnson insisted the U.K. was “in the lead,” quipping: “We’re virtually the only country that gets anything like the faintest bat squeak of approval from the climate change experts.”

On Monday he will co-chair a roundtable on climate change with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. He will also meet with climate change-skeptic Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has failed to halt the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, despite calls from campaigners.

This article has been updated.

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