After Copenhagen

The outcome of the UN climate conference in Copenhagen offers an occasion for reflection on the very big political and economic picture. We can see, first of all, that the geopolitical changes brought on by the 2008 world financial crisis are now at work in climate politics as well. The G-7, the old center of power, proved incapable of resolving the crisis simply because it did not include all the players, and so the G-20 came to prominence. Along with the G-7 countries, the G-20 also includes the “BRICs”, the “emerging economies”, the countries that are in surplus rather than in debt. And now we see those same countries, together with Obama’s USA, hastily putting together an Accord to keep negotiations going, after the traditional blocs of climate diplomacy failed to reach a compromise.

The five countries which drafted the accord may be grouped into USA and China, the two big powers in the world system right now, and India, Brazil, and South Africa, who for some years have had a trilateral dialogue going on under the acronym “IBSA”. Thus political relationships from the tough world of economic and strategic diplomacy have begun to make a difference in the previously self-contained world of climate negotiation, which has its own native blocs and alliances, like “the Umbrella Group” and “the G77/China bloc”. This shows the extent to which climate is a central issue, not a marginal one, in the ongoing reconfiguration of world power. This is so, not only because the impacts of climate change are expected to be immense, but because the national mitigation strategies leave almost no economic sector untouched. Energy, manufacturing, agriculture are all affected. Huge sums of money are involved. So like it or not, climate is now part of geopolitics, and geopolitics is now part of climate.

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