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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