British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had failed to convince Xi to commit toChina‘s peak emissions by five years, according to The Times.
“I pushed a bit on that – ‘25 would be better than 2030’. But then I wouldn’t say he committed on that,” Johnson said en route to Rome, referring to a telephone call he held with Xi on Friday.
“The other point where I was evangelical was the potential to move away from coal. [Xi] said, ‘China depends on coal for our domestic economy’ and I said the thing you’ve heard me say so many times – about the UK moving away from 80 per cent dependence on coal to 1 per cent today,” the British newspaper quoted Johnson as saying.
Already, expectations of major progress on the climate across the successive G20 and COP26 leaders‘ summits have faded. Australia, India and China, meanwhile, are thought to be the last holdouts on negotiations to phase-out the use of coal.
“Our policy is very clear: we’re not engaged in those sorts of mandates and bans, that’s not the Australian government’s policy, it won’t be the Australian government’s policy,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters travelling with him from Canberra.
In his video address, Xi said China “has always taken the initiative to assume international responsibilities in line with national conditions, actively promoted economic green transformation, and continuously improved its efforts to address”.
The Chinese leader said that G20 nations “must shoulder its due responsibilities” in the global economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and in the push for equitable vaccine distribution.
Pushing back at criticism over China‘s handling of the early stages of the pandemic andfor an investigation into its origins, he said that “the stigmatisation of the virus and the politicisation of its origin run counter to the spirit of unity in the fight against the epidemic”.
“We must strengthen cooperation in prevention and control, diagnosis and treatment methods, and improve our ability to respond to major public health emergencies,” said Xi, whose remarks covered similar ground to his UN General Assembly address in September.
In a thinly-veiled swipe at the United States‘ giant economic stimulus measures, which Chinese economists have warned could have implications for the, Xi said that “major economies should adopt responsible macroeconomic policies to prevent their own actions from causing rising inflation, exchange rate fluctuations, and high debts”.
He also announced that China would apply to join the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, an agreement launched by Chile, New Zealand and Singapore last year, aimed at easing digital trade.
Xi is not in Rome for the summit, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi attending in his place. Wang arrived in combative form, warning the United States and European Union against bolstering their relationships with Taiwan.
The US “failed 50 years ago to stop the one-China principle and they are even less likely to succeed today in the 21st century”, Wang continued, adding that the US and its allies will “definitely pay the price” for their attempts to “wilfully” play the Taiwan card against Beijing.
He was coming off the back of a short tour of Greece, Albania and Serbia. His Taiwanese counterpart Joseph Wu was simultaneously touring the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania and Belgium, before addressing a protest meeting in Rome via video link on Friday.
Xi will also sit out Monday and Tuesday‘s COP26 Leaders’ Summit in Glasgow, with experts warning that his absence may be keenly felt.
“It certainly matters,” said Tristan Naylor, deputy director of the G20 Research Group on the sidelines of the Rome forum.
“The real added value of leaders meeting at a summit is the interactions that they have on the margins, the brush-bys on the sidelines, the bilaterals – both formal and informal,” said Naylor.
“That‘s really where the action takes place. And if a leader is not here to engage with others, those are missed opportunities and often those are opportunities that are the biggest stumbling blocks to reaching agreements.”
Saturday‘s first day of G20 talks finished midafternoon, with leaders focusing on vaccines and economic recovery, before breaking off for bilateral meetings.
As the fallout from the Aukus defence alliance involving the US, Britain and Australia rumbles on, Johnson was set to meet Morrison.
On Friday, the Australian leader was scolded by French President Emmanuel Macron over the saga, which resulted in Paris losing out on a submarine contract worth almost US$50 billion.
On the same day, Macron and US Presidentmade tentative steps towards repairing their nations‘ bilateral relationship, which had been severely tested by the affair. Biden that Washington’s handling of Aukus had been “clumsy”.
Meanwhile, European Council President Charles Michel met with Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore‘s Prime Minister, on the sidelines of the conference on Saturday.
The pair discussed Aukus and its impact on security in the region, as well as its “possible links to nuclear energy’s expanded use, and how to engage and balance relations with China”, according to an EU source.