Analysis & Opinions - Financial Times

Climate Action in an Era of Great Power Competition

| July 18, 2023


At the foot of the Eqi Glacier in Greenland in June, I watched ice formed thousands of years ago drop into the warming ocean. With this vivid depiction of climate change in my mind, I was disappointed that neither of the conferences held last month to prepare for the UN’s upcoming COP28 summit had produced any real breakthroughs.

However, while the need for climate action is rising, the stakes for COP, perhaps counter-intuitively, look to be diminishing. An underwhelming COP28 would be a missed opportunity but it may not be a tragedy. Twenty or even 10 years ago, it was reasonable to hope a co-operative approach could address climate. But it is no longer a realistic expectation — nor the most promising route for progress.

For a generation, the co-operative approach embodied in the COP made sense. As carbon emissions transcend borders, the best strategy was a co-operative one; no one country can address the challenge alone. For most of the past 30 years, that logic was consistent with the dominant international dynamic. While there were disagreements, there was an absence of great power rivalry.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: O'Sullivan, Meghan.“Climate Action in an Era of Great Power Competition.” Financial Times, July 18, 2023.

The Author

Meghan O'Sullivan