Will U.S.-China Competition Derail the U.N.’s Commitment to Fight Climate Change?

Will U.S.-China Competition Derail the U.N.’s Commitment to Fight Climate Change?
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the Climate Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 23, 2019 (AP photo by Jason DeCrow).

Two big questions about the future of multilateralism surfaced during last week’s United Nations General Assembly. How will the battle against climate change reshape international cooperation in the decades ahead? And will mounting competition between China and the United States render any cooperation impossible?

The climate issue dominated the run-up to this General Assembly. Responding to dire warnings about global warming, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insisted that it must be front and center in New York. He oversaw a masterful bout of diplomatic choreography, as the U.N. welcomed young, superstar activist Greta Thunberg to address a special Climate Action Summit, pushing leaders to make concrete pledges to reduce carbon emissions.

U.N. officials know that, while quite a few countries made solid commitments at the summit, they will not have a profound impact on global temperatures rises. But this event was a palpable hit in terms of public diplomacy, not least for Guterres.

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