China’s President Xi Jinping is unlikely to attend the Cop26 climate summit in Scotland, according to a report.
His absence will deal a blow to Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other world leaders who had been hoping to secure commitments from Mr Xi on climate action.
Mr Johnson reportedly sent the Chinese leader a “personal invitation” to the event in July, three months before the UN climate conference is due to begin in Glasgow.
According to The Times, Mr Johnson has been informed by diplomats that the invitation has been turned down.
With the world’s largest population by nation and one of the fastest growing economies, China is by far the biggest producer of CO2 on the planet.
“It is now pretty clear that Xi is not going to turn up and the PM has been told that,” The Times quoted a source as saying.
“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.
“The truth is that unless China comes with new commitments, we’re not going to be able to keep 1.5°C alive.”
The Paris Agreement established an increase of 1.5°C over pre-industrial temperatures as the global warming limit in the long term.
Ahead of the talks, Cop26 President Alok Sharma urged world leaders to honour the commitments made under the landmark accord signed in 2015.
Cop26 organisers in Britain have already seen reluctance from other countries to step up in the battle against climate change.
Ahead of the event, which will run from October 31 to November 12, all nations are expected to publish new climate change targets, called nationally defined contributions, or NDCs.
However, only about half of the G20 member states have so far come forward with their packages.
China and Saudi Arabia are among those who have failed to make written UN climate commitments, according to the i newspaper.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest oil exporters, and has 17 per cent of the earth’s petroleum reserves.
Mr Sharma in recent months visited both countries to discuss climate change.
Just weeks ago he flew to Tianjin in China to pressure legislators to set ambitious targets.
After returning to the UK he said he had held “constructive discussions” with his Chinese counterparts, but urged Beijing to immediately come forward with plans on how to achieve their climate goals.
Mr Sharma also visited Riyadh in July where he said he was forging a “strong, modern partnership with Saudi Arabia to address the global threat of climate change”.
US President Joe Biden will attend the summit, the White House confirmed on Thursday, making it his second visit to the UK since entering the Oval Office in January. He attended the G7 meeting in Cornwall in June.
The US charge d’affaires, Philip Reeker, said on Twitter: “It’s official – President Biden will travel to Scotland for Cop26.
“The gathering in Glasgow will be a pivotal moment on the road towards a more secure, prosperous and sustainable future for our planet.”
This week, John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy on climate change, said the US administration remained hopeful that Mr Xi would attend.
However, he said that Cop26 could still be a success if the Chinese leader failed to attend.