by Hulya Kinik & Ozgur Tufekci

Analytical Framework

The international system can be defined as an environment in which states interact with each other, and that is formed by states whose basic elements are separated from each other by certain boundaries with regular and dependent relations among them. Although international relations have existed as long as states themselves, the modern international system is just a few centuries old. Important events have acted as the milestones in the transformation of the international system. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years’ War among European states, can be deemed the commencement of the modern international system. It established the state as the legitimate European polity and legalized a commonwealth of sovereign states (Philpot 1999, 581). From that stage forward, the international system has been mainly based on relations between the nation-states, which have been regarded as the dominant political units in world politics, have enjoyed exclusive rights within a given territory, and have been able to implement their own domestic policies in their own domain.

How to Cite:

KINIK, H. & TUFEKCI, O. (2018), Rising Powers and the Dynamics of Conflict and Cooperation Within Eurasia, In O. Tufekci, H. Tabak and R. Dag (Eds.), Politics of Conflict and Cooperation in Eurasia (pp. 18-35). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

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In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, several powerful nation-states controlled Europe. Some of these remained powerful throughout most parts of the modern age, but some others shrank in power over time. Weaker states often came together to limit dominant powers’ influence, a practice known as ‘balance of power’, which refers to the distribution of power among countries so that no nation can seriously threaten the fundamental interests of another. Demonstrating that they sought to preserve the power balance, the dominant units of the international system tried to prevent French attempts under Louis XIV during the War of the Spanish Succession (1700–1713), and Napoleon’s efforts in the period 1789–1815, to dominate the international system.

The period from 1815 to 1871 is known as the Concert of Europe; it marked a period of relative peace following Napoleon’s final military and political defeat in 1815 and the Vienna Settlement. During this period no nation-states attempted to dominate the system, as the Concert of Europe was primarily planned by the great European powers as a means of controlling the rebirth of the French imperial power and of enabling the spread of the trends of democracy, liberalism, and nationalism, and was established with the overriding aim of protecting collective security and preserving international peace (Yılmaz 2007, 19; Sotirović 2017). In the period 1871–1918, Germany, under the leadership of Wilhelm II, tried to dominate the international system, but was precluded from doing so by other great powers (mainly Britain, France, and Russia). After 1871, nationalism appeared as a strong force which led to nation states becoming much more powerful, and imperialism intensified the clash of interests among European powers. The problems raised by the unification of Germany, among other factors, led to the outbreak of World War I and resulted in the collapse of Germany and its allies. The period 1918–1945 was characterized by the process of attempts to preserve peace treaties (1919–1925), increasing stability as a result of the Locarno Treaties (1925), the Briand-Kellogg Pact (1928), and the Young Plan (1929), and finally by new international tensions due to the Great Depression (1929) and the attempts of Germany, under the Nazi regime, to once again to dominate the system. This attempt also failed; Germany broke up and has long been the focus of the East–West tensions (Yılmaz 2007, 19).

The objectives of the peace treaties designed by the great victorious powers at the end of World War I included the prevention of a possible new war and peace-keeping on the European continent. However, as several historians of the interwar period accept, the treaties contained within themselves causes for the outbreak of World War II, the largest and most destructive conflict in history (Vohn 2016, s. 50–51). The period between the two world wars is generally described in international relations literature as one of “crisis” or “transition,” or as the “long ceasefire,” because it was only after World War II came to an end that the international system underwent profound and large-scale change, and the nature and character of the international system became totally different from that of the classical (nineteenth-century) international system. The logic of the Cold War gave birth to the bipolar system centered on just two great world powers – the United States and the Soviet Union — which had different spheres of political and military influence and maintained a precarious nuclear balance (Vohn 2016, 49; Mearsheimer 1990, 15). The international system during the Cold War era was structured and functioned as bipolar, in terms of military potential, the form of political regimes, the model of the economic system, and the conflicting dominant ideologies of communism and capitalism (Tomja 2014, 58).

In the early 1990s, just after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the world’s diplomats, politicians, and journalists contended to define the structure of the new, post-Cold War world and were induced to ask, “Are we moving into a new world order?” To put it differently, “Is the Westphalian order near the end, and, if so, what is going to replace it?” (Posen 2009, 347). Optimists like Frances Fukuyama asserted that we had reached the “end of history,” announcing the triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism and the arrival of a post-ideological world (Fukuyama 1989, 1). On the other hand, pessimists like Samuel Huntington claimed the opposite: the outbreak of new “civilizational” wars between the West, Islam, and the Confucian world (Applebaum 2002, 1; Huntington 1993, 22). George Bush, Sr., president of the United States at the time, used the concept of the “new world order” during the Gulf Crisis, stating that the bipolar order was over and that a new order and structure had emerged in the international system. In an address to Congress on September 11, 1990, Bush stated his vision of the new world order as follows:

We stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective – a new world order – a new era – freer from the threat of terror, stronger in pursuit of justice and more secure in quest for peace, an era in which the nations of the world … can prosper – a world where the rule of the law supplants the rule of the jungle, a world in which nations recognize the shared responsibilities for freedom and justice, a world where the strong respect the rights of the weak. (Bush 1990)

Although the United States emerged as the only superpower in the international system in the aftermath of Soviet dissolution and several states followed a pro-Western foreign policy, around the 2000s new actors began to emerge onto the world stage and to take an increasingly important role in the global order. These countries, which have formed new regional organizations capable of challenging existing supra-state organizations, have begun to transform the international geopolitical system. This, in a sense, has caused important changes in the balance-of-power equation, and the global political economy has experienced a period of significant transformation as the hegemonic power of the U.S.A. is challenged by the rise of new powers. As a result of the growing influence of each of these rising countries, based on their economic development and defense capabilities, the unipolar structure of the U.S.-led international system has been replaced with a multipolar order which consists of a continuation of competition and comparison among all these centers of power (Öniş and Yılmaz 2016, 72–73).

The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the bipolar system around 1990 changed the meaning of the term “Eurasia” from an anthropological concept to a significant category of regional and international relations. Throughout history the Eurasian region has ranked among the most significant and prominent regions in the world in terms of its natural and human resources. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the well-known British political geographer S.H. Mackinder referred to the significance of Eurasian region by stating that “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands World-island; who rules the World-island commands the world” (Mackinder 1962, 261). He regarded Eurasia as a “pivotal area,” a heartland. With its geopolitical features, rich energy deposits and mineral wealth, rising economies, and regional institutions, the Eurasian region is also one of the most important elements in challenging a U.S.-dominated world and may well help to describe the world order of the twenty-first century, since three so-called “emerging economies” of the BRICS grouping – Russia, China, and India – are located on the supercontinent of Eurasia. These three are expected to direct the world economy by 2050, and they already have growing influence in world affairs as they account for more than 40 percent of the world population right now. While Russia, China, India, and other Asian actors are increasing their engagement in international affairs and are playing a crucial role in reshaping the political, economic, and military balances within Eurasia, the United States and other countries of the West are receding (Brzezinski 1997, 30–35). States that are becoming even stronger, such as Russia and China, in line with the relative power loss of the United States have sought to protect their established relations with Eurasia and have developed new relations in order to further increase their power and diminish the impact of the U.S. in the region.

In this context, this article investigates the rivalry, as well as the cooperation, that is taking place among rising powers within Eurasia. Specifically, the first part of this study focuses on areas of cooperation and conflict in relation to the energy order, especially between the two rising powers of Eurasia, China and Russia, both of which have strong interests and considerable influence in the region. The latter part of the study will present an overview of the climate agreements (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol, and Paris Climate Agreement, among others), and the extent to which rising powers in the Eurasian region are involved in these agreements will be considered.

The Energy Order and Rising Powers in Eurasia

Energy is of vital importance, for both developed and developing countries, for industrialization, sustainable economic growth, and maintaining living standards (Svyatets 2015, 8). Studies on energy done by international organizations show that the most rapid growth in energy demand will occur in developing countries, and their proportion of global energy consumption is projected to grow by 57 percent over the 2004–2030 period (EIA, 2007). In this context, from past to present, Eurasia has been of particular interest to regional and international actors due to its vast energy resources and geographically vital location, through which economic and commercial connections have been established between Europe and the Pacific on one hand and between Asia and Europe on the other. The region holds some of the largest deposits of oil, natural gas, uranium, and gold in the world (Starr 1996, 80). According to 2017 data, Russia and the Central Asian states have nearly 30 percent of the world’s proven natural gas reserves and almost 9 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves (BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017, 14, 28).

Besides the structuring of the international system, the dissolution of the Soviet Union also transformed world geopolitics and the energy map. In respect of Eurasia, which witnesses today’s major energy cooperations and conflicts, two related primary developments have occurred in the post-Cold War era: first, the great importance that has been given to natural resources, and second, the rise of China and the recovery of Russia as an energy giant (Yiğit 2013, 77). With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, China and Russia quickly integrated into the international system, and they have become major forces in the Eurasian region, where both countries have strong interests and considerable effect.

Over the years, China and Russia have come together due to developments in their external environment. Their relationship is an unstable alliance of two unsatisfied powers, which enables cooperation in certain areas but is also characterized by different perspectives that form several elements of tension and rising geopolitical competition between the two, mainly in the energy and economic fields. The relationship between them has elements of both competition and suspicion (Carlsson, Oxenstierna, and Weissmann 2015, 11). As a result of China’s growing economy on one side of the border and Russia’s vast energy resources on the other, strong energy relations and trade ties in this area are expected to become unavoidable. Russia is important for China as a critical supplier of natural resources at a time when Chinese demand for energy is rapidly accelerating. But although Russia and China have intense cooperation and relations in the energy field, there is also a point of conflict on energy between them. This dispute is the result of geopolitical considerations and struggle between the two powers in Central Asia, the vast energy reserves of which have led them to compete for imports and for a hold on power in the region (Kaczmarski and Rodkiewicz 2016, 1).

In Chinese energy security, oil and gas supplies in Central Asia have an essential role. Beginning in the 1990s, China has made diplomatic attempts in Central Asia with the aim of developing bilateral trade and gaining access to natural resource reserves. For instance, Kazakh oil makes a big contribution to the diversification of China’s import sources and to implementing alternative territorial energy routes, taking into consideration that more than 80 percent of Chinese oil imports are delivered via oil tankers. Another important feature of energy cooperation between Kazakhstan and China is represented by the fact that Beijing is the major purchaser of Kazakh uranium. Besides that, in the Central Asian gas sector Turkmenistan has recently become China’s major partner: since 2012, half of Beijing’s total gas imports have contained Turkmen gas, supplied to China through the China–Central Asia gas pipeline (CAGP), which also crosses Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and by 2020 will cross Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (Indeo 2016). Thereby, Chinese energy strategy will include all five Central Asian republics. The improvement of the Caspian Sea–Xinjiang pipeline – shipping Kazakh oil – and the CAGP pipeline has provided Central Asian countries with an opportunity to develop an alternative energy export route without being under the shelter of Moscow, also profiting by Chinese loans and investments to actualize infrastructures and to utilize national energy reserves (Socor 2007; Indeo 2016).

The opening of the CAGP and the implementation of the Sino-Kazak oil pipeline deepened trade and investment relations among China and Central Asian countries but also triggered another element of tension between Russia and China, as the former ended the Russian monopoly on Turkmen gas exports and the latter has reduced Russian authority over energy exports in Central Asia. It is clear that the Silk Road initiative and the Chinese participation in Central Asia pose a serious geopolitical risk to Russia’s integration projects, because the success of the Chinese strategy is progressively downgrading the traditional role and influence of Russia in the post-soviet space (Popescu 2014, 19–21; Indeo 2016). For years, Russia has attempted to make a gas deal with China for the purpose of broadening destinations for its gas exports and securing foreign demand for gas. However, China has preferred to invest heavily in Central Asian energy resources and infrastructure, including oil and gas pipelines from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, allowing energy imports without Russian influence (Oxenstierna 2012, 102).

In recent years, Russia and China have entered into two ambitious projects which involve the Eurasian landmass, for the purpose of developing economic cooperation between East and West through trade and energy routes passing through Central Asia. Russia has implemented the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in order to promote cooperation within the region and create a Russian-led geopolitical bloc. On the other side, China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR, or New Silk Road) initiative, announced by China’s president Xi Jinping in the autumn of 2013, is an attractive project including whole Central Asian countries in a profitable energy and economic network, following huge Chinese investments aimed at improving infrastructures and developing national economies (Indeo 2016).

However, while China and Russia are racing against each other for regional primacy, they are accelerating their cooperation too. In 2009, notable credit was given by the China Development Bank (CDB): a $15 billion loan to Rosneft, an oil company owned by the government of Russia, and a $10 billion loan to Transneft, a Russian state-owned transport monopoly and the largest oil pipeline company in the world. In response to these credits, Russia agreed to supply China with oil for the next twenty years via a supplementary pipeline from its Eastern Siberia–Pacific Ocean oil pipeline. Previously, all Russian oil supplies to China had been transported by rail and via a pipeline through Kazakhstan (Yiğit 2013, 78).

Eventually, in May 2014, not long after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which resulted in sudden confrontation and damaged relations with the West and led to sanctions against Russia, an agreement worth $400 billion was ratified between Moscow and Beijing, under which Russia’s state-controlled energy giant Gazprom would supply 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas from Eastern Siberia to China for thirty years, starting in 2018 when the system would become fully operational (Carlsson, Oxenstierna, and Weissmann 2015, 51–52; Savic 2016; Adamson 2015, 6–7). The Russian conflict with Ukraine has resulted in greater Russian dependence on China in both political and economic terms. Despite the sanctions imposed by the West, Russia has not changed its behavior and has been isolated from its Western partners, paving the way for stronger economic ties with China and Asia (Carlsson, Oxenstierna, and Weissmann 2015, 57). By this point, China had already arisen as the main challenger to the global dominance of the United States, raising expectations that Beijing could take the place of the West as a source of easy credit, large-scale investment, and high-level technology, besides being a major market for Russian exports (Trenin 2017).

In addition to the oil and gas deals mentioned above, nuclear energy is a field in which Russia and China are in cooperation. China has thirty-seven working nuclear reactors, providing 3.6 percent of its power generation, and is expanding its nuclear energy power substantially: at present, twenty reactors are under construction (World Nuclear Association 2017). Russia has built two 1,000-MW reactors, and has plans to build two more, at the Tianwan nuclear power plant (World Nuclear Association, 2017). In May 2014 the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) entered into an agreement with Rosatom, the Russian nuclear state corporation, to collaborate to build floating nuclear co-generation plants for China’s offshore islands. These were to be constructed in China with Russian technology (Carlsson, Oxenstierna, and Weissmann 2015, 52).

In May 2015, during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow, having made a U-turn, Moscow agreed to view the OBOR initiative and the EEU as complementary rather than competing structures (Duchâtel, 2016). During the summit, a mutual declaration was issued with the aim of consolidating these two projects and establishing a formal mechanism for their coordination under the structure of a combined task force. After this, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared the vision of the Greater Eurasia project during the International Economic Forum held in St. Petersburg on June 16–17, 2016. This may be considered as a signal that Moscow finally prefers to join a stronger partner instead of adopting the strategy of seeking to act as a counterbalance to the rising power of China (Kaczmarski and Rodkiewicz 2016, 1).

While China’s foreign relations across Eurasia have generally been based on commerce, Russia’s policies throughout the region have stressed the political over the economic realm. Competition between China and Russia for power and resources in the region; Moscow’s increased isolationism and Russia’s unstable economy; the unstable global energy outlook; and the existence of other internal and external actors as a challenge for both countries mean that Russia and China run into difficulties in managing a bilateral relationship based on cooperation rather than conflict. Conflicting interests mainly relate to equity stakes in energy drilling and transportation, which have major strategic importance to both countries. Russia seeks to maintain control over energy resources and its transportation networks, while China searches globally for equity shares in energy resources and pipelines (Norling 2006, 31).

Global Climate Governance and Rising Powers in Eurasia

The second part of the paper analyzes the role of rising Eurasian powers such as China, India, and Russia in global climate governance and examines to what extent their rise makes the already complex issue of climate change still more challenging because of their rapid economic growth, increasing desire for political power, rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and apparent unwillingness to take global environmental “responsibility.” However, there is a common perception that power is shifting in world politics and that rising powers are playing a more crucial, active, and prominent role (Hurrell and Sengupta 2012, 463). They constitute a significant portion of the world population – the BRICS group corresponds to more than 40 percent. Consequently, rising powers are regarded as key actors in relation to most global challenges. Along with their significant economic potential and political power, rising powers are also responsible for an important proportion of global GHG emissions; thus, their importance in terms of climate change issues relates to their position as “rising polluters” (Happaerts et al. 2013, 1). In the game of environmental politics, rising powers are playing a very decisive role as they are indispensable factors in achieving a solution to the climate crisis and establishing a more environmentally effective regime globally. However, climate change has been regarded as one of the major obstacles to international cooperation that the world has faced.

In recent times, climate politics has become a fundamental issue at the center of international politics, since international society is intensely concerned about climate change and its results. Climate change is a critical global problem that requires global efforts and collective action. The global governance of the emissions that lead to climate change began with the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which entered into force in 1994 and set the objective of controlling serious human-induced climate change by balancing GHG concentrations in the atmosphere (Falkner 2016, 1108). Five years later, the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, which entered into force on February 16, 2005, committed its parties to internationally binding emissions reduction goals (UNFCCC 1998). But despite the Kyoto Protocol, the emissions of the main GHGs rose steadily over this period. Since 2007, both developed and developing countries have agreed to accelerate their efforts to tackle global climate change, and negotiations have focused on accepting an agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which collapsed in acrimony (Falkner 2016, 1107). Significant milestones were COP15 in Copenhagen (2009), COP16 in Cancún (2010), COP17 in Durban (2011), and COP18 in Doha (2012). Regarding the current redistribution of GHG emissions, it is clear that a new agreement must involve not only the biggest industrial emitters such as the U.S. but also new rising powers, which have a special responsibility to respond to climate change so that the global regime can be more environmentally effective (Happaerts et al. 2013, 3).

At the 21st Conference of the Parties held in Paris on December 12, 2015, 195 countries (147 of which have officially ratified the agreement so far) adopted a detailed agreement that UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon described as ‘a monumental triumph for people and our planet’ (UN News Centre 2015) and that pursues efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. The text of the Paris Agreement, which is a milestone in collective action in combating environmental deterioration, further states:

Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible … and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century. (UNFCCC 2015)

Although the epochal Paris Agreement has paved the way for significant progress in collective action and cooperation on global climate change, global climate governance still has some issues to address. The most important point is whether and how the world will reach its 1.5° target (Hilton and Kerr 2017, 49; Walsh et al. 2017). So there is an urgent need for greater cooperation among the major emitters. In light of this, President Trump’s declaration that the U.S. will quit the Paris Agreement has significant repercussions. In this case, to prevent the potential negative effects of the U.S. withdrawal and promote a global low-carbon transition, a more robust and consolidated global climate regime with effective leadership needs to be advanced. The political vacuum left by the U.S., the second-largest GHG emitter in the world and commonly regarded as an essential leader in global climate governance, seems to have already been filled by Beijing. China arose as a main defender of the Paris Agreement and as the major candidate to challenge the superpower status of the U.S., and has sought to fill the leadership role left by the Trump administration with the aim of preventing the rise of global temperatures by more than 2°C. President Xi Jinping introduced China as the new guardian of the world’s free trade and rescuer of the international climate protection policies at the last World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland) in January 2017 (Liu and Wu 2014, 1–2).

Until recently, China has posed a significant obstacle in global climate negotiations. Climate change has not prevailed over economic development as a policy priority, as China’s urgent task is still economic development in order to meet the needs of its growing population and to save a large number of rural Chinese from poverty. But China’s concern over global climate issues has radically changed over the last decades. The Chinese government has carried out several national programs to decrease GHG emissions over the past decades. For example, in 2007 the Chinese government released, for the first time ever, a national climate change plan which outlined its vulnerabilities to climate change and plans to deal with the problem, making China the first developing state to have a national strategy to combat climate change (Lewis 2007, 158–159; Busby 2010, 13). Several factors have contributed to the shifts in Chinese climate policies. China has invested considerable resources in policies to reduce GHG emissions due to domestic concerns – energy demand, air pollution, economic reconstruction, etc. Besides, China cares about its poor international image on environmental issues and does not wish to be considered a “blocker” of the climate change negotiations (Williams 2014, 2). China signed the UNFCCC in 1992 and ratified it in 1993. Similarly, China signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 and ratified it in 2002. As a rising power, China is at a turning point in reshaping its international climate regime and expanding its domestic economic and political transformation. China wishes to project the image of a “responsible stakeholder,” assuring the world that it takes climate change seriously and that it is a trustworthy partner and benevolent member of international society. The Paris Agreement may be a first step, but China still has further to go to secure its reputation in this regard.

On the other side, Russia is an important actor with several political and economic motivations to take part in global climate politics. Apart from being one of the world’s largest emitters, Russia is a major supplier of the fossil fuels that are the primary cause of greenhouse gases on a global scale (Tynkkynen 2014, 5). Russia played a crucial role in the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, as without its confirmation the Protocol would not have become valid in the least. However, Russia declared its withdrawal from the second commitment period at the UN climate change conference in Cancún in 2010 (Goldenberg 2010). Russia’s main argument for not participating in the second commitment period was the lack of commitment on the part of the other largest emitters (Tynkkynen 2014, 11). In this context, Russia signaled that it would only enter into an agreement that involved all major emitters. Similarly, Russia has not ratified the Paris Agreement yet, and has not determined a date for this ratification to happen. It has been stated by Russian representatives that the country needs more time to set an appropriate course for reducing its dependency on carbon and fossil fuels without damaging its economy, and to closely monitor its socioeconomic effects. The sanctions that were applied to Russia due to its annexation of Crimea have led to severe constraints on the Russian economy as many international donors withdrew their financial support for emissions reduction programs in the country. Furthermore, the continuing military revolt in Syria has been at the top of the agenda in Russia, pushing the development of environmental policy into the background (Männistö 2017; Climate Action Tracker 2017).

Russia has not taken significant political precautions domestically in the matter of climate change, and it falls even further behind in terms of its domestic climate policy in comparison with most of the developed countries – despite recently taking legal action in order to increase energy efficiency and support the development of renewable energy and setting a goal of 25 percent emissions reduction by 2020 compared with 1990 (Tynkkynen 2014, 6). In brief, Russia’s performance in global climate policy shows the importance of goals other than truly environmental ones, such as political or economic profits, as the main incentive behind Russia’s involvement.

As a rising power, India has also been a highly relevant player in worldwide climate negotiations in recent times. But India’s position in these negotiations is regarded by some writers as self-contradictory. On one hand, India shows an interest in being a part of climate negotiations; on the other, it rejects sharing the climate burden by reducing carbon emissions, as it believes that developed countries are chiefly responsible for today’s climate crisis – that the largest share of historical and current global emissions of GHGs originated in developed countries, and that they should therefore act at first (Prasad and Kochher 2009, 15–18; Michaelowa and Michaelowa 2011, 1; Gupta et al. 2015, 592).

In the beginning of negotiations on climate change in 1991, India projected itself as a protector of the Global South and as a coalition builder. In climate negotiations, India’s primary position is to focus on equity and “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities” (CBDR–RC) – principles which are mentioned in the UNFCCC (UNFCCC 1992, Article 3.1). This remained the centerpiece of India’s stance until COP-15 in Copenhagen in 2009, at which there were notable shifts in India’s climate policy together with those of other rising powers: India, China, Brazil, and South Africa made voluntary commitments to decrease their emissions intensity. India, as a developing country or “Non-Annex I party,” pledged a 20–25 percent decrease in the emissions intensity of its gross domestic product by 2020 in comparison with 2005 levels (India 2010; Barua 2017, 202).

On the other hand, although India made a commitment to maintain its reduction target within the provision of the Paris Agreement to update emissions reduction strategies and action every five years (UNFCCC 2016, Article 4.17), India had argued, along with Saudi Arabia, for a ten-year revision scheme (Clémencon 2016, 9). Because the agreement is not legally binding, no action can be taken in the case of parties failing to meet their national aims. As a result, India did not set a peak year for its emissions as China did, nor did it state its absolute emissions reduction goal as many developed countries are doing (Clémencon 2016, 17). It can be said that India’s stance on global climate negotiations is mainly formed by its domestic environmental and socioeconomic policies. Indeed, the climate strategies of India are based on its concern over energy security rather than on moral ideals of the protection of the global environment. In other words, India’s stance on climate policies is primarily developed with the aim of providing and maintaining energy security for India.

It is widely accepted that new powers aim to play a more central role in global governance. However, these rising powers have found themselves thrust into a central role in global climate negotiations that they do not desire. Climate governance has nearly foundered on the question of whether major new powers such as China, Russia, and India are “developed enough” to adopt emissions burden-sharing arrangements. After long-standing opposition, rising powers are beginning to make voluntary commitments to take action, while continuing to resist international oversight. It can be said that multilateral solutions in the climate negotiations are not likely in any predictable future.


The international system has been perpetually unstable; while certain powers have enjoyed a long reign, there have been marginal or structural changes with regard to the international system. Generally, the ending of wars has resulted in important changes. Regarding Eurasia, as discussed in the first part of this study, the end of the Cold War era led to two closely associated radical developments. First of all, great importance was given to the vast energy resources of the region, and second, due to the rise of China and the recovery of Russia as an energy giant, the region drew attention throughout the world. As China seeks to be a global power, it has to permanently reconsider its relations with other major powers such as Russia, which is a significant neighbor particularly as a crucial supplier of natural resources at a time when Chinese demand for energy is swiftly rising. However, the considerable amount of energy reserves in the region has emboldened both countries to seek imports and maintain influence, leading to a fundamental confrontation within the region.

The second part of the study analyzed the role and effect of rising powers in the global climate change regime, centered on the UNFCCC, which faces a number of problems. Regarding the substantial rises in global emissions, it is clear that the institutional solutions of the UNFCCC do not correspond to the scale of the problem in this age. In order to raise its effectiveness the global climate change regime needs to be redesigned, but any reform seems likely to be inconclusive if it does not involve the acceptance of binding reduction targets by rising powers. The efforts of rising powers will be critical to implement a more environmentally friendly regime. From this perspective, cooperation is a better choice for countries in the fight against serious human-induced climate change and there is an urgent need to find an appropriate common approach that will relax and diminish serious conflicts.


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