The timing of the new defense agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia has dismayed climate experts, who fear it will have a negative effect on hopes of a deal with China on the greenhouse gas emissions ahead of vital UN climate talks.
Aukus’ trilateral security partnership has been interpreted as seeking to counterbalance Chinese might in the Asia-Pacific region and has been compared to a new cold war by China. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned the three countries to “respect the aspirations of the peoples of the region and do more to promote regional peace, stability and development, otherwise they will end up harming their own interests. “.
China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, will play a central role in the UN Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow in November. Unless it can sharply cut emissions over the next decade, the world is unlikely to limit global heating to 1.5 ° C, a key aspiration of the Paris agreement. John Kerry, US President Joe Biden’s climate envoy and UK Cop26 talks chairman Alok Sharma have both visited China in recent weeks.
World leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet virtually and in New York next week for the United Nations general assembly. Cop26 negotiators were basing their hopes on a positive China stance at the assembly, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to co-host a key meeting with UN Secretary General António Guterres in which Xi and about 30 other leaders are invited to.
Tom Burke, founder of environmental think tank E3G, said: [Aukus announcement] It’s bad timing ahead of Cop26 as Glasgow is time critical and it’s hard to see what was critical in the timing of this announcement. This does not seem to suggest that the Prime Minister is taking Glasgow very seriously. And it reveals the fact that he doesn’t have much to offer before Glasgow. “
Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, said the UK and US should not seek deals with Australia because its Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to take action on emissions. “It’s a really bad time, especially to please Australia, which is a climate rogue state,” Huq said. “This is absolutely not the right thing to do. It goes against what the United States and the United Kingdom say they want to accomplish on the climate. “
Keir Starmer, the Labor leader, raised the issue of the impact on Cop26 in the House of Commons. He said: “We have to work with them [China] on the major global issues of the moment, such as climate change and pandemic preparedness. Without diplomatic strategy and competence, these objectives will come into conflict. So what plan does the Prime Minister have to ensure that this new arrangement increases rather than diminishes our ability to influence China? With the Cop26 around the corner, the UK’s approach to China is important. “
Countries wishing to make progress at Cop26 should take a multilateral approach to the negotiations, said Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and a former French diplomat who oversaw the Paris talks. “Before Glasgow, we need clarity and solidarity. The climate crisis will impact all countries, regardless of their GDP, ”she told the Guardian.
“Climate diplomacy relies on an understanding of the scale of the crisis and the personal interests of states in strong and robust climate action. These are not agreements or transactions; it is a common struggle. Another success rests on a repaired US-China relationship, but also on a commitment to multilateralism at all levels if we are to keep the spirit of the Paris agreement. “