Boris Johnson suffered a blow today as the Queen complained she still has ‘no idea’ who is going to turn up to his COP26 summit – with China’s Xi Jinping seemingly off the guest list.
In a rare public intervention, Her Majesty – who is due to entertain world leaders at the gathering in Glasgow – voiced frustration at the lack of RSVPs just a fortnight before it kicks off.
She said it was ‘extraordinary’ that she had been ‘hearing all about COP’ but ‘still doesn’t know who is coming’.
The comments came as the PM braces for bad news from Beijing over Xi’s attendance. Organisers fear a snub could be a precursor to China refusing to set new climate change goals amid the ongoing global energy crisis.
Meanwhile, there are doubts about whether other leaders such as Vladimir Putin will make the journey to try to thrash out a new global approach.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro have also not committed to being in Glasgow for the event.
US President Joe Biden confirmed only yesterday that he will attend. America’s charge d’affaires to the UK, Philip Reeker, said the summit in Glasgow will be ‘a pivotal moment on the road towards a more secure, prosperous and sustainable future for our planet’.
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has also announced he will be coming.
If China does not commit to new action, the prospect of keeping global warming to 1.5C could well be scuppered. The country is responsible for 27 per cent of global carbon emissions.
Caught on microphone while attending the opening of the Welsh parliament in Cardiff yesterday, the Queen said: ‘Extraordinary isn’t it… I’ve been hearing all about Cop… still don’t know who is coming… no idea.
‘We only know about people who are not coming… It’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t do.’
The Queen made a rare public intervention on the climate change crisis yesterday, saying she is ‘irritated’ by people who ‘talk but don’t do’
Chinese president Xi Jinping (left) is not expected to be at the COP26 summit, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin (right) has raised doubts about whether he will go
US President Joe Biden confirmed only yesterday that he will attend the COP26 summit
Mr Johnson was talking up his promises for the looming COP26 summit on a visit to a school in Bristol today
Cop26 organisers unsure on China’s stance
With Chinese President Xi Jinping reported to be missing the Glasgow climate summit next month, there is increasing pessimism that the event will be a success.
All countries are expected to publish Nationally Defined Contributions (NDC), a non-binding national plan of actions to combat climate change.
But with just two weeks to go before the conference opens, only half of the G20 countries have put forward their plans.
China is among them, and insiders are unsure how much the world’s biggest emitter is prepared to budge.
‘It is now pretty clear that Xi is not going to turn up and the PM has been told that,’ one source told The Times.
‘What we don’t know is what stance the Chinese are going to take. They could go to the G20 [summit in Rome on October 30-31] with new commitments but that is now looking less likely.’
However, another official added that Xi’s absence was not necessarily an indicator of China’s willingness to make changes.
The President has not been outside of Chinese territory since a pre-pandemic state visit to Myanmar in January 2020.
Similarly, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has only made one foreign trip since March 2020 – that was to meet Joe Biden in Switzerland in June this year.
The 95-year-old monarch was speaking to the Duchess of Cornwall and Elin Jones, the parliament’s presiding officer, when her remarks were picked up on the event’s live stream.
Miss Jones replied: ‘Exactly. It’s a time for doing… and watching your grandson [Prince William] on the television this morning saying there’s no point going to space, we need to save the Earth.’
The Queen smiled proudly and said: ‘Yes, I read about it.’
The remarks were a rare public insight into the politically neutral – and tight-lipped – monarch’s personal views on an issue of global importance.
She attended the Welsh parliament alongside Camilla and the Prince of Wales, a committed environmentalist who made similar remarks this week.
The Queen did famously say she hoped ‘people will think very carefully about the future’ ahead of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, which was viewed by many as a direct attempt to influence the vote.
Yesterday’s remarks, although also made in a public setting, were not political – simply a personal expression of frustration at inaction on climate change.
Although the Queen has left environmental campaigning to her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, her son Charles, and grandson William, it is an issue she quietly takes a great interest in.
In a speech to the Scottish parliament earlier this month, she said: ‘Next month, I will be attending Cop26 events in Glasgow. The eyes of the world will be on the United Kingdom – and Scotland, in particular – as leaders come together to address the challenges of climate change.
‘There is a key role for the Scottish parliament, as with all parliaments, to help create a better, healthier future for us all, and to engage with the people they represent – especially our young people.’
In 2019, she used her Christmas speech to praise young climate change activists and their sense of purpose.
She has also introduced environmentally friendly initiatives at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences, including monitoring energy consumption through a network of smart meters, installing energy-efficient LED lighting where possible and using combined heat and power plants and boilers to convert natural gas into electricity.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tried to gloss over the episode today saying everyone wanted ‘progress’ on stabilising the climate.
‘I think comments made in private should stay private, but we all share the desire to see progress made and we know there will be hundreds of leaders coming to Glasgow for Cop,’ he told Sky News.
‘We will wait to see whether it lives up to – whether they all live up to – expectation, it’s very important we get this job done.
‘I don’t think her comments were for broadcast.’
Mr Shapps denied that the summit would be a ‘waste of time’ without China, but did say ‘of course we want them to come’.
‘There’s already been a huge number of commitments, including the president of the United States coming, and huge numbers of people who will be coming,’ he told Sky News.
‘A lot of time and energy has gone into reducing carbon and people making pledges.
‘Even with China we’ve seen, for example, recently a pledge not to support more money going into building coal overseas.
‘Not in China, but the money they put into coal stations being built elsewhere. That is a big move.
‘Of course we need them to do that domestically, of course they need to decarbonise. They’ve set their own targets to decarbonise nationally as well.
‘Of course we want them there, we want everybody there. But let’s see who comes and the success the world can make of this, it’s clearly important that we do.’
He added: ‘If countries don’t come they’ll be the outliers rather than central to this and most countries want to be relevant to this.’
President Xi has not left China since the start of the pandemic last year.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (left) and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro (right) have also not committed to being in Glasgow for the event
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