This op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor suggests that “environmental engagement” could serve as sort of a back-door channel for easing U.S.-China tensions:
Environmental collaboration is unlikely to hit politically sensitive buttons, and thus offers great potential to deepen dialogue and cooperation. Military-to-military dialogue can facilitate the sharing of best practices on a range of environmental security issues. It can help both nations and their regional partners prepare for natural disasters ““ which are expected to intensify in a warming world ““ and improve the ability of civilian agencies and militaries to adapt to the impacts of climate change. It can also develop personal relationships that can provide deeper understanding in times of crisis.
This is a good example of the nexus between the maturing field of environmental security and foreign policy.
However, in terms of any future global agreement limiting carbon emissions, climate change is a sensitive issue for China that could also further complicate U.S.-China relations, something the op-ed authors gloss over.
Still, I think they are on to something:
Environmental security issues ““ and climate change in particular ““ could be among the most productive avenues for US-China military cooperation. The world’s largest per capita emitter (the United States) and its largest total emitter (China) of greenhouse gases should identify specific areas for cooperation before the upcoming climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Environmentalists recognize the upside too, with some offering a detailed set of recommendations here, on how the U.S. and China can engage on climate change-related issues in advance of the Copenhagen meeting.
UPDATE: As the Guardian reported earlier this week, perhaps China is softening its position on climate change.