President Xi to cancel New York climate summit amid climate standoff with Trump

A meeting on the sidelines of a high-level climate summit in New York in September could block Britain from advancing Brexit negotiations

China’s president, Xi Jinping, is reconsidering a decision to attend the United Nations climate summit in New York in September to avoid confrontation with Donald Trump, diplomatic sources say.

Xi’s opponents within the party and the Communist party apparatus, fear that such a meeting on the sidelines of a high-level climate summit would block Britain from advancing its Brexit negotiations, according to Reuters.

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Zhang Gaoli, a party committee member and former environment minister, and Chen Jiuhua, a member of the Politburo, intervened to persuade the central government to rethink going to the climate summit, three sources with ties to the leadership and Beijing’s official media said.

The attendees of the summit, scheduled to start on 1 September, are meant to include the leaders of all the 193 UN member states plus leaders from non-member organisations such as environmental groups.

The Beijing sources said Xi was likely to attend the climate summit – now set for 2 September – as previously planned if China could negotiate a good framework for the countries to discuss how to decarbonise the world economy.

These sources declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to foreign media.

The foreign ministry said: “In light of the way the international climate situation has developed in recent years, the central government will take various measures including inviting overseas delegates to attend climate meetings.”

In his maiden speech to the national congress of the Communist party in October, Xi made a special call to “combat global warming” and urged the party to make it an “absolute priority” to solve climate change. He also directed the central government to work “more comprehensively” on efforts to fight climate change, state media said.

But some insiders fear Trump and his climate change denialist administration in the United States would get a rise out of a looming meeting between the two major economies.

“One of the worries was that America would say ‘you can’t attend because the head of the United States is missing’,” said a former official in the country’s environment ministry.

Zhang said foreign leaders are comfortable bringing their leadership and that China should also not shy away from doing the same.

The UN is hoping to reach an agreement next year to enforce the 2015 Paris accord, which was signed by 196 nations and set a goal of keeping global warming to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and to “pursue efforts” to limit it to 1.5C.

The most recent UN global heat data shows that average global temperatures are at least 1C above pre-industrial levels. The agreement requires more than 60 countries, accounting for more than 80% of global emissions, to make specific pledges on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

In its annual global survey published in June, the non-governmental organisation Climate Action Tracker, predicted that world carbon dioxide emissions in 2018 will exceed those in 2005, one of the worst periods in human history.

The group forecasts global emissions will rise to 55.4bn tonnes this year, against 53.2bn tonnes in 2017. The UN target is 40.7bn tonnes of CO2.

China’s long-held goal to lead the world in achieving a net-zero effect on carbon dioxide emissions has been pushed back to 2030. But at an international conference of top energy officials earlier this month, China’s finance minister said the world was heading towards a post-Kyoto period, after Japan and Canada rescinded their commitment to support a legally binding, international climate agreement.

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