Shifting Climate Diplomacy: Is there a realignment of influence in global climate negotiations?

01 Nov, 2023 - UAE Life & Economy

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28, is just around the corner in Dubai (30 Nov – 12 Dec 2023). However, COP29, scheduled to be hosted by an Eastern European country in 2024, is already grabbing headlines. The process of selecting a host is turning into a diplomatic challenge, primarily due to the geopolitical tensions stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Bulgaria, an EU member, expressed its interest in hosting COP29 and garnered support from fellow Eastern European EU nations. But Russia’s resolute stance against allowing any EU member country to host the summit puts this bid in a precarious position. Armenia and Azerbaijan, initially strong contenders, have been hamstrung by their own regional disputes and entanglement with Russia, which has further complicated the process.

As Eastern European nations strive to find common ground and reach a compromise for COP29’s host, Australia and Turkey have stepped into the fray. Australia’s eagerness to host COP29 has been known for some time, but recently, the country has hinted at its desire to bid for COP31 instead. This shift could be related to political motivations to align its hosting opportunity with its climate policy objectives. Turkey, which straddles the line between Europe and Asia, has also now emerged as a contender for COP29.

Amidst all this, it has been reported that the UAE has offered to host the annual UN climate summit next year too if no consensus on a host is arrived upon. This strategic move could grant the UAE substantial influence over global climate policy during a pivotal two-year period when decisive actions are needed to combat climate change. While it is too early to draw definitive conclusions, these developments point to a subtle shift in the global distribution of influence and clout in climate negotiations and a significant realignment of influence towards Asia.

For years, climate negotiations and global environmental diplomacy have often been dominated by Western powers and developed nations. However, the dynamics are evolving, the UAE’s presidency of COP28 and the shift in interest towards hosting COP events from Australia and Turkey reflects the growing recognition of the importance of the Asia Pacific and the Middle East in the climate agenda. While the participation of nations from these regions in hosting COP events could be seen as part of a broader shift towards greater diversity and inclusivity in global climate diplomacy, it also reflects the recognition that climate change is a global challenge that requires collective action, involving not only traditional Western powerhouses but also emerging economies and nations with unique contributions to make.

The importance of the Asia Pacific and the Middle East in the climate agenda is undeniable. These regions are not only home to some of the world’s largest economies but also face significant climate-related challenges. The impacts of climate change, from extreme weather events to rising sea levels, are felt acutely in these areas. As a result, their involvement in climate negotiations is not just symbolic; it is essential for crafting effective solutions.

Regardless of the outcome of negotiations, one thing is certain – the host for COP29 will significantly influence the path of climate action and environmental diplomacy on the world stage. While it is too early to definitively assert a shift of influence towards Asia, the indecisiveness surrounding Eastern Europe’s hosting of COP29 could be an impetus for greater inclusivity and collaboration in the global fight against climate change. The true answer to whether these developments will reshape the landscape of climate diplomacy will only become clear in the years to come, depending on how united the world is in its efforts to combat the climate crisis.

This article was first published in Arabian Business on 26th October 2023.