The keys to tackling the climate crisis: globalisation, cooperation, and China

Climate strikers in Falmouth | Lauren Taylor

While the increasingly globalised state of capitalism has attracted backlash, the best long-term strategy to balance economic growth with the need to radically address climate change may warrant rethinking how globalisation can be positioned to tackle both problems simultaneously. Climate change will have a profound impact on international politics and the future of the planet from a domestic political perspective. With more and more stories emerging globally surrounding the climate crisis, countries must look outwards rather than inwards to save the planet.

The role of the G7

A primary focus of the summit was to take action to combat climate change with a renewed spending pledge of $100bn per annum which supports developing states to cut emissions and transition to more sustainable forms of energy. For the leaders of the G7, they hoped this would produce a “green revolution” to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C. Domestically, many of the G7 leaders have agreed to reduce emissions produced from production, farming, and transportation, and many developed countries across the world are expected to follow suit. The future tackling of climate change will need to focus on development and investment overseas into maintaining cleaner methods to produce energy, especially as developing states in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia continue to industrialise and gain prominence in the global economy. Among other pledges, the G7 agreed to provide high-quality roads, railways, and wind farms to Africa and Asia, hoping to spark the shift towards greener sources of energy and infrastructure projects.

Tackling China

The international response is understandably very important when it comes to climate change, not just because climate is an inherently global problem, but also because the impact of climate policy set by the G7 may be simply ineffective against the greatest national contributors to climate change.

A major focus at G7 was China, and for good reason – currently China produces nearly 10.06GT of CO2, followed by the US with 5.41GT, almost half. Compared to the UK, China produces nearly 27 times the emissions despite its GDP being roughly 4.7 times as large. Since the end of the Cold War, China’s proportion of CO2 emissions has increased from 11.82% to 27.93%, the only nation to increase its percentage of global emissions by more than 5%. In comparison, America’s has practically stayed the same and Europe’s (including non-EU members) has decreased.

The developing world and climate change

Although it is apparent the success of the pushback on China by the G7 will have middling results, nurturing a globalised system of cleaner energy to developing countries both inside and outside the West’s sphere of influence may be important for long-term action on climate change.

In 2011, developing countries were responsible for 63% of CO2 emissions, and while development-wise this is beneficial, environmentally it is not. While more developed countries produce energy more efficiently and cleanly, developing countries have “lagged behind” due to the cost demands of transitioning to the energy infrastructure found in the West. However, those with the most inefficient technologies have seen the most drastic increases in capital, investment, and production in the last 20 years. While the economic statuses of these nations are rising, climate resilience is not. Factors such as political instability, economic fragility, access to resources, and the easy loss of development opportunities could easily devastate the developing world once the worst of the climate crisis presents itself.

Demonstrators dressed up as world leaders in Falmouth for the G7 Summit | Amelia Lucie and Luke Court

A globalised investment plan

However, developing countries cannot routinely afford renewable energy, and thus the forefront of climate change policy for the G7 is expanding the possibilities for clean energy in the developing world. Increasing the globalised nature of production and trade will be essential for increasing investment and capital in these regions, while shifting the political focus in these countries towards combating climate change. As with any foreign policy decision, a spectrum of willingness by developing and newly developed countries to accept the proposed $100bn per annum of the G7 will emerge when placed in competition with Chinese counterproposals. Countries more affected by climate change and Chinese expansionism, such as in South-east Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines), are more likely to agree to the proposed plan, while fragile developing countries less effected by climate change, such as in the Middle East (Iran, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia), are less likely to.

Ultimately, climate change is not just an environmental and humanitarian threat, but also a security issue. Aiding the development of cleaner energy and production in the developing world through globalised investment plans will be a much more effective long-term solution to not just tackling climate change, but also maintaining greater global cooperation as the nations of the world find they share common interests when the planet produces an extreme new test.