Could Russia And China’s Absence From COP26 Doom Us All?

Photo of the flag of Russia against a blue, partially cloudy sky
Esme McKenzie

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin did not attend the COP26 climate change summit. Esme examines what this, and the absence of other leaders, means for our future.

Vladimir Putin, the leader of one of the world’s worst carbon polluters did not attend COP26 in Glasgow. Russia is the world’s fourth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and his decision not to come is seen as a major blow for the summit by Green activists. I asked Cath Sutherland from the Nottingham Green Party for her opinion regarding Putin’s decision. She criticised him, stating: ‘Of course millions of people all over the world desperately want a strong agreement, reaching all parts of the world, to come out of COP26. But there are many politicians, including Putin, who do not want to face up to their duty to future generations and the long-term interests of their country. They are interested in power and glory now.’

short term economic interests are being put ahead of the climate crisis

The aim of the UN Climate Change Conference is to bring world leaders together to agree on actions to cut carbon emissions and reduce global warming. It’s the biggest climate change talk since Paris in 2015. Russia’s current goal is to be carbon neutral no later than 2060. This aim is much later than the UK and other nations whose plans are to be neutral by 2050. Despite Siberia losing 21 million acres of forest to wildfires this year, with smoke reaching the north pole, Russia’s 2060 goal combined with Putin’s absence is seen as a serious lack of commitment to climate change.

In addition, China’s President Xi JiPing – the world’s biggest carbon producer – also did not attend COP26, adding another blow to the summit. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro was also absent from COP26. Russia and Brazil are both countries severely affected by climate change. With Russia’s economy dependent on oil production and the exploitation of the Amazon being profitable for Brazil, it is clear that short term economic interests are being put ahead of the climate crisis.

we will all suffer the consequences

The intensifying COVID-19 situation in Russia is thought to be a factor in President Putin’s absence, though he has still given no comment on his reason for not attending the summit in Glasgow. When I asked Cath Sutherland from the Nottingham Green Party, she said: ‘Other countries must lead from the front and put pressure on Russia, India, Australia, Brazil, even China. Even the more progressive countries like the UK are not doing nearly enough.’ It is evident that Russia and other nations are not being held accountable for their actions. And it is felt that these setbacks for COP26 dampen its hopes of success.

As Sutherland puts it ‘it is disappointing that several countries will still be putting out large carbon emissions, and we will all suffer the consequences of that.’ Sutherland also importantly notes the ‘crucial’ role of ordinary people. She encourages the public to campaign and let ‘their leaders know that their electorate demand that they put the desperately needed policies to lower carbon emissions in place.’ Putin’s absence will have a detrimental impact on all our futures. Climate change is an ever-increasing issue. With these absences and clear lack of dedication from some world leaders: is there any hope?

Esme McKenzie

Featured image courtesy of Sam Oxyak via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

This article is part of Impact Nottingham’s COP26 series. For more articles on the conference check out the link here.

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