MOSCOW, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday urged international cooperation, not rivalry to tackle the climate crisis, a day after the Kremlin said he would not fly to Scotland for a major world summit on the issue.
"Any geopolitical, scientific, technical and ideological rivalry in such conditions sometimes seems to lose its meaning if the winners have nothing to breathe or nothing to quench their thirst with," Putin told an international gathering of Russia experts.
His spokesman said on Wednesday he would not attend the United Nations COP26 talks starting in Glasgow at the end of the month but would participate remotely, a blow for hosts Britain and for hopes of a breakthrough international deal.
On Thursday, however, the climate crisis was the first topic Putin addressed in a wide-ranging speech in which he bemoaned the lack of international cooperation to save the environment and tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, accusing countries of selfishly putting their own interests first.
Putin, leader of the world's fourth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, said environmental degradation was now so obvious that even the most ignorant people were unable to dismiss it.
"One can continue having scientific debates about the mechanisms of the processes taking place, but it is impossible to deny that these processes are worsening and something needs to be done," he said. (Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Oksana Kobzeva; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)