Confronting the Geopolitics of Climate Change

The climate-change agenda has become so politically driven that important actors have tagged onto it all sorts of competing interests, economic and otherwise. That should not have been allowed to happen, but it has, and there can be no way forward unless and until we confront that fact.

NEW DELHI – International climate-change negotiations are to be renewed this year. To be successful, they must heed the lessons of last December’s Copenhagen summit.

The first lesson is that climate change is a matter not only of science, but also of geopolitics. The expectation at Copenhagen that scientific research would trump geopolitics was misguided. Without an improved geopolitical strategy, there can be no effective fight against climate change.

The second lesson from Copenhagen is that to get a binding international agreement, there first must be a deal between the United States and China. These two countries are very dissimilar in many respects, but not in their carbon profiles: each accounts for between 22% and 24% of all human-generated greenhouse gases in the world. If a deal can be reached between the world’s two greatest polluting nations, which together are responsible for more than 46% of all greenhouse-gas emissions, an international accord on climate change would be easier to reach.

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