Russia Hits Back at Joe Biden's Criticism of Vladimir Putin's COP26 Absence

The Kremlin has rejected President Joe Biden's questioning of Vladimir Putin's commitment to tackling the climate crisis by saying "let's not forget that forests are burning in California."

At the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Biden unveiled his administration's policies to tackle climate change. Biden criticized the absence of the world's biggest polluter, China and its leader, Xi Jinping.

He also took aim at the absence of the Russian president, who delivered a video address at the summit but did not attend in person, citing coronavirus concerns.

Biden said in Russia, "literally, the tundra is burning. He (Putin) has serious, serious climate problems, and he is mum on willingness to do anything."

"How do you do that and claim to be able to have any leadership?"

This summer, Russia endured its worst forest fire season in modern history, according to data analysed by Greenpeace.

The group said that more than 18.16 million hectares of Russian forest were destroyed in 2021 with experts attributing the blazes to climate change and deforestation.

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected Biden's suggestion that Russia was not showing leadership on climate change, saying that "we do not agree with such a formulation of the question."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Joe Biden
This split image shows Russian president Vladimir Putin (L) next to his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden. The Kremlin has rejected Biden's criticism of Putin's no show at the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow. Getty

"The tundra is indeed on fire, but let's not forget that forests are burning in California, Turkey and other countries of the world," Peskov said Wednesday.

"These are exactly the very consequences of climate change that we are facing."

"Russia is just taking a very responsible position," Peskov said, according to news agency Tass, "we have formulated promising, concrete plans for work in this direction."

He said that Russia has even more serious climate challenges than other countries, in particular, to the rate of warming in the Arctic.

Peskov said it was "most likely" that Russia's plan regarding climate change "was not reported to the U.S. President when he spoke about Russia's non-participation," in the conference.

Peskov added that when the leaders next meet in person, "President Putin will have a great opportunity to tell President Biden what we are doing on the climate."

Russia did send a 270-person delegation to Glasgow which was led by Putin's climate envoy Ruslan Edelgeriyev and Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk.

Russia, the world's fourth highest emitter of greenhouse gases, along with China and India, did not sign the U.S.-led Global Methane Pledge at COP26 to cut methane emissions 30 percent by 2030.

However, Russia did join over 100 countries at COP26 in promising to end deforestation by 2030. Meanwhile, Putin, pledged this year that Russia will reach carbon neutrality by 2060.