Boris Johnson said world leaders must do more to tackle the climate crisis during an “extensive conversation” with China’s President Xi Jinping ahead of the Cop26 summit.
They spoke for 45 minutes on Friday after it was announced the Chinese premier will attend the major climate conference in Glasgow virtually after weeks of keeping the world guessing.
China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other gases that devastate the environment and Mr Xi’s direct participation will be seen as a boost for the summit.
Their talks also came after China submitted a new national plan for climate action, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
Downing Street described the call as an “extensive conversation” during which they discussed issues including “action to address the climate crisis”, global trade, security and human rights.
“The Prime Minister acknowledged China’s new nationally determined contribution and welcomed their work on the Cop15 Biodiversity Summit, noting how critical protecting nature is to our overall climate objectives,” No 10 said.
“He emphasised the importance of all countries stepping up their ambition on climate change at Cop26 and taking concrete action to cut emissions and expedite the transition to renewable energy, including phasing out coal.”
China’s NDCs did not include new targets beyond those already announced, which were labelled as “disappointing”.
Beijing says it aims to reach carbon neutrality before 2060 and peak emissions before 2030, and to lower carbon emissions per unit of GDP by over 65% from the 2005 level.
The world is well off track to deliver necessary cuts to greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, and the need for China to redouble efforts is seen as essential.
Downing Street would rather Mr Xi had attended Cop26, which starts on Sunday, in person but will be welcoming his decision to attend by videolink.
The president has avoided foreign travel since before the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.
Mr Johnson also discussed “wider international security issues” including Afghanistan with Mr Xi and challenged him on two major points of contention.
“The Prime Minister raised the United Kingdom’s concerns about the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong and human rights in Xinjiang,” Downing Street said.