The emerging economies and climate change: a case study of the BASIC grouping

The emerging economies and climate change: a case study of the BASIC grouping

Among the most dramatic and far-reaching geopolitical developments of the post-Cold War era is the shift in the locus of global power away from the West with the simultaneous emergence as major powers of former colonies and other countries in the South, which were long on the periphery of international capitalism. As they clock rapid GDP growth, these “emerging economies” are trying to assert their new identities and interests in a variety of ways. These include a demand for reforming the structures of global governance and the United Nations system (especially the Security Council) and the formation of new plurilateral blocs and associations among nations which seek to challenge or counterbalance existing patterns of dominance in world economic and political affairs.

BASIC, made up of Brazil, South Africa, India and China, which acts as a bloc in the negotiations under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is perhaps the most sharply focused of all these groupings. Beginning with the Copenhagen climate summit of 2009, BASIC has played a major role in shaping the negotiations which were meant to, but have failed to, reach an agreement on cooperative climate actions and obligations on the part of different countries and country-groups to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions, warn scientists, are dangerously warming up the Earth and causing irreversible changes in the world’s climate system.

Long, complex and tortuous, the climate talks – termed the most important negotiations ever to take place in world history – could determine the survival and well-being of humanity for centuries to come. Already, BASIC has clearly altered the UNFCCC negotiations field and the relative weights of its major players. How it deals with the substantive issues at stake, and how its climate diplomacy develops, will have historic consequences for the success or failure of the climate talks, and in the long term, our planet.

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