China, the EU and the US are responsible for around 40 % of global greenhouse gas emissions and consume nearly half of the world’s energy. Therefore, decisions made in Beijing, Washington and Brussels have significant implications for the world’s climate and energy security.
International cooperation on climate change has lost momentum in recent years, however, 2021 could mark a shift in the global approach to the climate crisis and boost cooperative climate diplomacy. Countries are due to submit revised pledges to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and will negotiate at the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26), in an attempt to put global mitigation plans back on track to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
While US climate policy has been unpredictable at times, the EU has been consistently ambitious and China has powered the shift to low-cost renewables. Critically, real-world action needs cooperation, competition and consistency.
International climate action has shifted towards the introduction of competitive trade mechanisms that protect domestic businesses as they decarbonize and to schemes that incentivize trading partners to align their decarbonization efforts via import tariffs. This has emerged in the context of the increasingly strained relationships between China, the EU and the US, and as the global cooperative approach to tackling climate change has weakened.