Absence of key world leaders is blow to Cop26, Cabinet minister admits

Absence of key world leaders is blow to Cop26, Cabinet minister admits
Missing leaders unable to join by Zoom, MPs toldas Alok Sharma is accused of failing to set out benchmarks for success or failure

The absence of the leaders of China, Russia and Brazil – and probably India and Japan – is a blow to Cop26, the Cabinet minister in charge of the summit has admitted.

Na Vladimir Poetin’s announcement that he is staying away from Glasgow, Alok Sharma told MPs: “Clearly, having world leaders attend is good for the process it’s good for Cop.”

It was revealed that absent leaders will be unable to join by Zoom, in a possible blow to Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, who has spoken of attempting to take part online.

“It’s a physical meeting and the participants will be there physically,” a Cop26 official told a committee by MPs – with just 11 days until the summit gets underway.

The questions came as Mr Sharma was accused of failing to set out coherent benchmarks for success, to allow a judgement of whether it had been “a good Cop or a bad Cop”.

The event’s president-designate said the aim was to “keep 1.5 degrees within reach” – the maximum global temperature rise thought possible while avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Maar 11 of the world’s 20 biggest economies have yet to announce their contributions to that task – and there is no agreement on the mechanism to monitor compliance, even if targets are set.

Asked if foot-dragging countries had been told to put commitments to net zero carbon emissions in law, Mr Sharma said they were only required to make the vow.

Leading diplomats have emphasised the importance of face-to-face contact between the leaders of countries – the only people with the power to make critical climate commitments.

Maar Xi Jinping, the premier of China – the world’s largest carbon emitter and currently planning more coal-fired power stations – will almost certainly be missing, although he has not confirmed that.

Mr Putin will also be absent, as will the presidents of Brazil (Jair Bolsonaro), Suid-Afrika (Cyril Ramaphosa) and Iran (Ebraham Raisi), while Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has yet to commit.

Labour has warned of the damage to the chances of agreement. Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy gesê: “Without the biggest emitters like Russia and China, progress towards climate safety cannot be achieved.”

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