SACRAMENTO (AP) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday abruptly canceled his trip to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, forgoing a much-anticipated chance to appear on an international stage devoted to one of his signature issues.

Newsom, who has four children ages 5 to 12, won’t go due to “family obligations,” spokesperson Erin Mellon said without elaborating on the reason.

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Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a fellow Democrat, will lead California’s delegation in Newsom’s place.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Kounalakis said she spoke to Newsom on Thursday and had a sense she might be asked to go to Scotland.

“The governor has a young family and we should all be understanding, especially those of us who have been there,” said Kounalakis, who has two teenage sons.

Newsom and his his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, had been planned to attend the conference with 15 state lawmakers and some of the state’s top environmental regulators.

The decision to back out of attending was a surprise, especially since Newsom has made climate change policies a central theme of his administration.

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Newsom has been enjoying his win from a convincing victory in a recall election last month that solidified his political power in the nation’s most populous state as he completes his third year in office.

The U.N. Conference would have given Newsom a chance to share the world stage with global leaders in a major way for the first time and allowed him to highlight his ambitious climate agenda.

It includes a proposed a ban on the sale of all new gas-powered cars in California by 2035, a ban on all oil drilling by 2045 and outlawing the sale of new gas-powered lawn equipment by 2024 or whenever state regulators determine that is feasible.

Instead, Mellon said Newsom “will be participating virtually, focusing on California’s landmark climate change policies.”

Kounalakis said California will be well-represented at the conference despite Newsom’s absence.

“The governor has a very clear agenda around combatting climate change and climate resiliency,” she said. “We are a 22-member delegation with enormous expertise and together we will carry the governor’s agenda and message and vision to Glasgow.”

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Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.