Skip to content
Green
Politics

China’s Deafening Silence Speaks Loudest at Global Climate Talks

The world’s second-biggest economy stayed out of COP26 pacts to tackle methane and reduce funding for fossil fuel

Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate change, during the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.

Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate change, during the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.

Photographer: Emily Macinnes/Bloomberg

(Sign up for the Green Daily newsletter, your best source for climate news and insights on the latest in science, environmental impacts, zero-emission tech and green finance.)

It’s hard to make progress on climate change when the biggest polluter doesn’t show up.

Chinese President Xi Jinping wasn’t among the dozens of world leaders there to open COP26, the ongoing climate talks organized by the United Nations in Glasgow, Scotland. China also sent a much smaller delegation than usual and was uncharacteristically quiet during the first week of meetings. In the few comments that officials did make, they mostly pushed back against calls to cut emissions more quickly.