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Climate protest

Participants display placards during a demonstration as a part of the "Fridays for Future" movement in New Delhi on September 25, 2020. (Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden-Backed Aukus Deal Could Spell 'Disaster' for Climate Cooperation With China

One U.K. lawmaker said reaching a "positive outcome" at the upcoming talks in Glasgow "just got a whole lot harder."

Jon Queally

Climate campaigners voiced concern Friday that a new trilateral military agreement by the U.S., U.K., and Australian governments—an arrangement, including new weapons sales, designed to neutralize China's growing geostrategic influence—could have a devastating impact on urgently needed climate cooperation ahead of the United Nations' COP 26 climate talks next month in Glasgow.

"Further success is predicated on a repaired U.S.-China relationship, but also upon a commitment to multilateralism across the board if we are to keep the spirit of the Paris agreement alive."

Known as the AUKUS trilateral security partnership, the new agreement was announced jointly earlier this week by U.S. President Joe Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and immediately panned by critics for its potential to increase "New Cold War" tensions at a time when coordinated, multilateral responses by world leaders to the planetary climate emergency are crucial.

"This [AUKUS announcement] is bad timing ahead of COP 26, as Glasgow is time-critical and it's hard to see what was critical about the timing of this announcement," Tom Burke, founder of the E3G environmental think tank, told the Guardian. "It does not appear to suggest that the prime minister is taking Glasgow very seriously. And it exposes the fact that he has not got much to offer ahead of Glasgow."

With China and the United States now the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions and leading superpowers, it has long been an aim of the climate movement to intensify cooperation between the two nations as a way to jumpstart the necessary global transition to a fossil-fuel-free energy economy. But critics of AUKUS warn that this fresh antagonism toward China—as the climate crisis worsens and the scientific community's warnings reach ever-higher levels of alarm—is coming at the worst possible time.

Gerard Toal, a professor of political geography at Virginia Tech, said Friday that the AUKUS deal represents an "imperial fantasy focused on the wrong threat" and "is a disaster for [the] possibility of collective action against climate change."

Meanwhile, Green U.K. MP Caroline Lucas, a longtime advocate for far-reaching climate action, warned that "reaching a positive outcome [during COP 26] just got a whole lot harder."

Speaking to the Guardian, Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation and a former French diplomat who oversaw the Paris climate talks in 2015, said that the world needs "clarity and solidarity" heading into Glasgow.

"The climate crisis will impact every country, regardless of GDP," she said. "Climate diplomacy relies upon an understanding of the scale of the crisis and the self-interest states have in strong and robust climate action."

"It is not a question of deals or transactions; it is a common fight," Tubiana added. "Further success is predicated on a repaired U.S.-China relationship, but also upon a commitment to multilateralism across the board if we are to keep the spirit of the Paris agreement alive."


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