China's Xi will not attend COP26 in person, British PM Johnson told: Report

President Xi Jinping has not left China since the Covid-19 pandemic began, but has joined video calls with global leaders. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Chinese President Xi Jinping will not attend the COP26 climate summit in person, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been told, The Times newspaper reported early on Friday Singapore time.

Britain, which hosts the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, in Glasgow from Oct 31 to Nov 12, is seeking to get big power support for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

"It is now pretty clear that Xi is not going to turn up and the PM has been told that," The Times quoted an unidentified British source as saying. "What we don't know is what stance the Chinese are going to take."

The Times said British organisers fear that Mr Xi's decision to stay away could be a prelude to China refusing to set new climate change goals amid an energy crunch.

The Chinese Embassy in London could not be reached for immediate comment.

Mr Xi, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, has not left the People's Republic since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. He has joined video calls with global leaders.

China is the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter so Mr Xi's absence from discussions - either in person or via video calls - would mark a setback for Mr Johnson's hopes of getting world leaders to agree a significant climate deal.

Mr Xi, 68, who has served as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party since 2012, attended the 2015 Paris climate conference.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth has been overheard saying that she was irritated by world leaders who talk about climate change but then do very little or nothing to address the crisis.

"Extraordinary isn't it. I've been hearing all about COP," the 95-year-old monarch told Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the wife of her son, Charles, Prince of Wales and the presiding officer of the Welsh assembly.

"Still don't know who is coming... It's really irritating when they talk, but they don't do," the Queen said in a conversation picked up by a microphone.

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