As currently configured, the United Nations’ greenhouse gas mitigation framework will allow temperature rise above what scientists predict will trigger catastrophic environmental events around the world, which are expected to impact upon vulnerable and poor populations most. This inadequate framework emerged at the negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009, which laid the groundwork for future agreements in Durban in 2012 and Paris in 2015. How did we arrive at an entirely inequitable and scientifically inadequate climate regime, and what’s stopping us from changing course? We argue that the global political order has shifted in important ways since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol a dozen years prior. Building upon the scholarship of neo-Gramscian scholar Robert Cox we identify major relevant historical shifts in three main areas: global political economy, geopolitics and ecological conditions. The developments in each of these areas have structured the limits and possibilities for international action on climate change. Any efforts to constructively address the climate crisis will have to contend with the major tensions in each of these areas of world order.
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