Where’s Boris? Johnson missing in action at Biden’s climate summit

Boris Johnson finally found a party he won’t attend.

The U.K. prime minister will not be attending a high level meeting of world leaders convened by U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday to discuss the climate crisis, despite British claims to be leading global efforts.

According to an agenda seen by POLITICO, the attendance list for the online meeting includes 17 heads of state and government.

Appearing alongside President Biden will be German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

European Council President Charles Michel will speak, as will leaders from Chile, Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria.

New Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will also be there to present his government’s new climate target to cut carbon emissions by 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The U.K., however, will be represented by COP26 President and Cabinet Minister Alok Sharma. China, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam will also be represented at a lower ministerial level.

The White House said in a statement the Major Economies Forum would advance Biden’s “efforts to use all levers to tackle the global climate crisis, urgently address rising costs around the world exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine, and put the U.S. and allies on a path to long-term energy and food security.”

Johnson’s no-show reverses a previous snub from Biden, who declined to join a climate meeting the U.K. prime minister hosted on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly last year.

A Downing Street spokesman insisted Friday that Johnson has been “leading on climate change,” pointing to the U.K. presidency of COP26 last year and reiterating the prime minister’s “full” commitment to Britain’s domestic net zero target.

The summit comes seven months after the U.K. hosted the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, and part way through the U.K.’s year-long climate presidency.

During the lead up to COP26, Johnson had placed himself at the helm of U.K. diplomatic efforts, framing himself as a pragmatic green Tory rather than a “bunny-hugging” activist.

But seven months after the conference, the deal at COP26 for governments to raise climate targets has so far drawn little response. World leaders’ attention has been drawn to more immediate global crises such as the war in Ukraine, while Johnson has been mired in his own domestic political strife stemming from his attendance at lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

The U.K., meanwhile, has responded to the energy crisis by encouraging new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea — projects the government had previously discouraged.

Esther Webber and Zack Colman contributed reporting.