The Climate Fight Is Asia’s Leadership Opportunity
By putting climate action at the heart of their efforts to rebuild consensus and reinvigorate multilateralism, Asian countries can prop open the world’s window of opportunity to prevent climate disaster. They would also catalyze their own ability to benefit from the massive economic opportunities created by the green transition.
NEW YORK/SEOUL – A year ago, following US President Joe Biden’s election, multilateralism once again became the beating heart of global climate action. G20 leaders agreed to more ambitious near-term climate targets en route to achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century, and they committed to ending inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies and cooperating on clean energy deployment to phase out coal more quickly. The willingness of China and India to address fossil fuels reflected a growing awareness of the macroeconomic risks of resisting the clean-energy transition.
These outcomes were crucial for delivering a litany of new initiatives at last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) that were dedicated to “keeping 1.5 alive,” in line with the Paris climate agreement’s goal for limiting the increase in global temperature to 1.5º Celsius, relative to the preindustrial average. They also helped set the stage for the historic Glasgow Climate Pact, which commits every country to phase down unabated coal use, even if India and China were able to block calls to phase out coal entirely.
Unfortunately, the stage for this week’s G20 summit in Bali could not be more different. Geopolitical and economic conditions are much less favorable, owing largely to Russia’s appalling war of aggression in Ukraine, with G7 countries backtracking on their commitments to end fossil-fuel investment as a result. Today’s heightened US-China tensions will, one hopes, be eased somewhat by the bilateral meeting between Biden and President Xi Jinping in Bali. But forging a strong outcome will be hard.