“Of course the US wants to break up the BASIC block. It’s been a force in the negotiations, and it probably still will show up here one way or another. I would be very shocked if it wasn’t.
“But [the coal deal] will probably knock off the rough edges of how it works, if South Africa knows that this cash flow is coming in to save their utility system, which is a complete mess.
“South Africa may not fall so far behind what China wants. So I think the US has gone through a very deliberative process here.”
So what does China want? Well, traditionally China and BASIC have resisted calls to bolster emissions reduction ambitions.
At this COP, there may also be differences in the design of new rules for measuring emissions. Some developing countries are concerned about the cost and technical feasibility of measuring their economies’ carbon emissions.
Attempts to separate China from its broad support among many climate-vulnerable and developing countries are not new. Indeed, Hillary Clinton originally announced the $100 billion that rich countries pledged to “mobilize” annually by 2020 for developing countries to achieve just that.
The figure, said Mohamed Adow, director of think tank Power Shift Africa, was neither up to the task nor based on serious needs analysis. Rather, it was a political wedge.
Ultimately, it was never delivered, which only served to amplify the sense of desolation felt by the nations it was promised to.
While the West promises too much and delivers too little, Adow says, China has steadily built friendships in Africa with financing for infrastructure and, during the pandemic, with vaccines, he says.
As temperatures continue to rise and adaptation targets were not even properly set, let alone met, developing countries now need funding for loss and damage from extreme weather events.
After triggering what Boris Johnson called “the Doomsday Clock” with the industrial revolution, rich nations have failed developing countries at every turn, Adow says.
South Africa’s stance within BASIC may be dulled by their new funding, but the rest of Africa isn’t likely to abandon its more trusted friend in China, Adow says.
Adow’s fear is that geostrategic competition at the COP is undermining the unity of action the crisis requires, and which the Paris Agreement has somewhat secured.
He looks back on World War II when Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill forged an alliance to defeat Hitler.
“Don’t look at the physics of climate change,” he insists. “Look at politics. It’s not in it.”
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