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Biden invites Putin, Xi to his first major climate talks

Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping have been invited to US-convened global climate talks in April
Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping have been invited to US-convened global climate talks in April

In a significant move, President Joe Biden of the US has invited rivals Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China to the US’s virtual climate talks. The forum will be held virtually on 22-23 April. Earth Day is 22 April.

Some 40 invitations to the leaders of the world’s major countries, as well as countries such as Bangladesh that are especially at risk as they are low-lying, were sent out by the White House on Friday.

The US hopes that the talks will shape and accelerate the fight against climate change. Biden has made the climate crisis a central issue for his new administration. He entered the White House for a four-year term in January and has said he will seek re-election.

The invitations to Putin and Xi are significant. Both are global rivals to Biden. If Putin or Xi attend, Biden will have to walk a fine line diplomatically, given claims of Russia’s US election interference and China’s human rights violations, among other issues.

China is the world’s top emitter of CO2, followed by the US. Russia is fourth, although it is only the 11th largest economy based on GDP globally. China is the world’s second-largest economy after the US.

The Biden administration will unveil an aggressive new CO2 emissions target at the summit.

A similar forum was held by former presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, but Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, is a climate denier and held no global climate talks during his four years in office.

Biden reached out to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU member states late last week regarding the summit. As of Monday, he had yet to contact Putin and Xi, whose countries are not considered US allies.

The US-convened forum will test Biden’s ability to work with other countries. Trump withdrew the US from the world stage with his America First campaign. Trump even pulled the United States out of the 2015 UN Paris Climate Accords as one of his first actions. Biden ordered the US to re-enter on his first day in office in January.

COP 26, the UN climate talks, will be held in Glasgow, UK in November.