Russia, China leaders glaringly absent from COP26 climate summit

Biden slammed China and Russia following a meeting of G-20 nations in Rome

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are not among the world leaders in attendance at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, this week, raising questions among attendees regarding their commitment to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Xi opted not to attend the United Nations’ summit in person, instead submitting a written statement that called on developed nations to take action but that did not include a new pledge on climate action. China is considered the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Putin also opted not to attend the summit in person, citing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. A Kremlin spokesman said the Russian government considered climate action "one of the priorities of our foreign policy," though the United States and other nations have criticized Putin for slow progress. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping is zeroing in on the ties that China’s state banks and other financial stalwarts have developed with big private-sector players, expanding his push to curb capitalist forces in the economy. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) ((AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein))

President Biden slammed China and Russia following a meeting of G-20 nations in Rome on Sunday, accusing both nations of making a lackluster effort to address climate change on the eve of the Glasgow summit.

"The disappointment relates to the fact that Russia, and including not only Russia, but China, basically didn’t show up in terms of any commitments to deal with climate change," Biden told reporters on Sunday. "And there’s a reason why people should be disappointed in that. I found it disappointing myself."


The discord between Western nations and other top emitters was apparent during the G-20 meeting, which yielded little progress toward new climate action. G-20 nations agreed to end funding for coal power plants abroad but did not detail actions to curb domestic coal use. The group’s members account for roughly 80% of the world’s carbon emissions.

Last month, China reaffirmed its goals of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2060, 10 years later than the United Nations’ target.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks as he attends the G20 summit via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The two-day Group of 20 summit is the first in-person gathering of leaders of the world's biggest economies since the (AP Newsroom)

Russia’s economy remains "heavily dependent" on energy production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As of 2016, oil and natural gas sales generated 36% of Russia’s federal budget revenue. Last month, Russia unveiled a plan to become carbon neutral by 2060.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pushed back on Biden’s criticism.

"Russia as a country is making enormous efforts and will continue to do so systematically to reduce the anthropogenic burden on the climate, but this is a process that requires adequate measures on the part of all states," he said, according to Reuters.

Biden struck a contrite tone during his speech at the climate summit on Monday, acknowledging the U.S.’s role as the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter and calling on developed nations to lead efforts at addressing the crisis.

President Joe Biden speaks during the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool) (AP Newsroom)

"We’ll demonstrate to the world the United States is not only back at the table, but hopefully leading by the power of our example," Biden said. "I know it hasn’t been the case, and that’s why my administration is working overtime to show that our climate commitment is action, not words."

The Biden administration has prioritized actions meant to address climate change since taking office in January. Under his administration, the U.S. rejoined the Paris climate accords, reversing former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement.


He has also pledged to cut the U.S. economy’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. The framework agreement for his $1.75 trillion spending bill includes more than $500 billion toward climate action, including the development of green technologies.

The COP26 summit runs through Friday, Nov. 12.