Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend next month’s UN biodiversity summit in Montreal, the country’s environment minister said on Thursday – despite the event’s official host China plan to send no invitations to world leaders.
At the nature summit, dubbed COP15, countries will try to agree a global deal to protect nature and wildlife, as species populations plummet and landscapes are degraded.
China, which holds the COP15 presidency, has not invited world leaders to the COP15 summit. It is taking place in Montreal on Dec. 7-19, after being postponed four times from its original 2020 date in China’s city of Kunming.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is not scheduled to attend.
But Trudeau will be present, the country’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told Reuters on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Egypt.
“The prime minister will be there, and he will be there on a number of occasions during COP15,” Guilbeault told Reuters.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside office hours.
The decision could inflame tensions between Ottawa and Beijing, after Xi upbraided Trudeau during this week’s G20 meeting in Bali for allegedly leaking details about their closed-door discussions there.
Also this month, Canada ordered three Chinese companies to divest their interests in Canadian critical minerals, citing national security.
While China has repeatedly postponed the summit due to COVID-19 concerns, it staged a mostly online event in October last year.
Asked last month about world leaders attending COP15 in Montreal, a spokesman with China’s foreign ministry said only that “the Chinese side welcomes all countries and international societies to participate positively (in COP15) and continue to make effective contributions to protecting global biodiversity”.
In a news briefing last week, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity Elizabeth Maruma Mrema said heads of state were not expected to attend COP15.
The EU environment commissioner said the bloc’s president and other European leaders were keen to attend, but were concerned about the potential absence of Asian or African leaders.
“I told them [the Chinese] our president is ready to go. I also asked other leaders around the EU,” Virginijus Sinkevičius told Reuters. “But then, of course, the issue is clearly that these leader segments would be dominated by Western leaders.”
On Thursday, the Campaign for Nature environment group put out an “urgent call” for world leaders to attend COP15, saying high-level representatives of each government were needed on the ground for the meeting “to have a chance of success”.