By PISA Staff Assistant, Leeann Ji
In recent years, China has made headlines with its economic growth and prowess. Before the late 1970s, however, China remained a predominately closed economy ruled by a communist government. China’s emergence as a communist nation took place during the Cold War, with China maintaining an important role in both the U.S. and Soviet Union’s foreign policy. During the Cold War, the global ideological divide between communism and democracy transformed Chinese society, with a lasting legacy that is still being felt in the country – and around the world – today.
Climate Refugees in Bangladesh. Photo Credit: Sabbir, Wikimedia Commons
By Jack Karsten, PISA Staff Assistant
Climate change is not just an environmental threat whose greatest impacts will be felt in the future; it also plays an immediate role in today’s international security issues. For example, a recent study concluded that a sustained drought compounded factors that started the civil war in Syria, a struggle that endures four years later. Rising temperatures will increase competition for scarce water, food, and energy resources with the potential to spark new conflicts and intensify existing ones. Droughts, floods and storms linked to climate change will displace millions of people each year, adding to the humanitarian crisis associated with war and border conflicts. Recognizing the impact of climate change on international security escalates the issue’s urgency.
Written By: Jon Ehrenfeld, Senior Correspondent
Editor: Suzanne Kelly-Lyall, Deputy Director PISA
The COP-16 conference, slated for November 29th in Cancun, Mexico, seems to be raising fewer hopes than the last round, likely because of the widely publicized and underwhelming results of COP-15. Policy makers on both sides of the Pacific can reasonably ask what can be expect from this next round of negotiations? Will we see progressive action from the bloc of Asian nations that allied themselves with China in Copenhagen? Or have events in the last year given rise to a new approach to climate negotiations?
In the past two weeks the United States and China have released separate plans for reducing their carbon emissions. Despite the fanfare that greeted the announcements, serious doubts have already been voiced about the combined effort. Put simply, is it going to be enough? Already worrying signs abound that these plans are too little, too late.
This week the ten ASEAN member states released a joint statement on climate change during the 15th ASEAN summit. Beyond the standard boilerplate, it’s clear that ASEAN and its constituent states are preparing for an aggressive negotiation at Copenhagen—a move that aligns it heavily with China, but less so with its citizens. While nominally voicing support for the outgoing Kyoto Protocol and for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), one phrase in particular sums up its approach: “in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.” Although this position is not a new one, it is an indication that ASEAN is unlikely to show flexibility in its insistence that developed nations “take the lead” in reducing emissions. Whether the approval of ASEAN’s neighbor to the north is worth popular outrage remains to be seen.
As the COP-15 meetings draw closer, some observers note that at the end of the day, measureable progress will hinge on the cooperation of two nations – China and the United States. The two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, these powerhouses will ultimately decide the extent of the forward progress made in Copenhagen. Regardless of how desirable it is for two countries to monopolize the debate to such an extent, it is clear that the situation is very much a double-edged sword for climate negotiators.
China is not a ‘status quo’ power but one that would like to alter Asia’s balance of power in its own favor – Condoleezza Rice, 2000
As the 14th ASEAN summit gets ready to kick off in Pattaya, Thailand this week, climate change may be an unlikely source of debate. The role of climate action in ASEAN nations is intricately linked to the looming presence of China, and lately China-ASEAN cooperation has bloomed. Chinese sources in particular stress the importance of “mutually beneficial cooperation” with ASEAN on economic and climate issues. In fact, the ASEAN secretariat and China’s environment ministry recently inked a draft environmental protection strategy (see sidebar) focusing heavily on climate change. Moreover, last September ASEAN secretary general Surin Pitsuwan praised a memorandum of understanding between ASEAN and China’s Guangdong province.