Putin won’t attend climate change conference
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will not attend the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.
No reason was given for the decision not to attend, but a Kremlin spokesperson said climate change was an “important” priority for Russia.
COP26 takes place in Scotland’s largest city from October 31 to November 12.
Russia’s decision is seen as a blow to efforts to get leaders to negotiate a new deal to stall rising global temperatures.
“Unfortunately, Putin will not fly to Glasgow,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that climate change was “one of our foreign policy’s most important priorities”.
When asked about Putin’s decision, a spokesman for Boris Johnson said the UK prime minister had previously strongly encouraged leaders to attend “given this is a very critical moment in terms of tackling climate change”.
More than 120 leaders had confirmed their attendance, the spokesman said.
Putin has not commented on the announcement of his non-attendance. He had previously said he would take part, but it appears now that will be virtually.
Speaking at an international energy forum in Moscow on October 13, Putin said the coronavirus pandemic would be a factor in his decision to travel.
Russia has seen record levels of Covid-related deaths. On Wednesday, Mr Putin ordered a nationwide week-long paid holiday from October 30 to November 7 to try to reverse both the rising number of infections and vaccination hesitancy.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is also unlikely to attend COP26, though Chinese officials have reportedly not entirely ruled out a change of plans.
Earlier in October, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attracted widespread criticism for suggesting he might skip the summit, but he later announced that he would indeed attend.
COP26 is the biggest climate change conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015. Some 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming, by 2030.
Reducing global warming is essential to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
Many observers will be watching how Russia and other major fossil fuel producers will be willing to reduce their reliance on them.
A new United Nations report says oil and gas extraction are both set to rise sharply over the next decade. (BBC)