Cold War, hot planet: Could superpower rivalries derail climate change goals?


How serious are the superpowers in tackling the planet's climate emergency? In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Xi Jinping followed the lead of Japan and South Korea and pledged an end to China's financing of coal plants overseas. The United States put aside escalating tensions to hail the promise, but critics dismiss the announcement as low-hanging fruit coming from the nation that's home by far to the most domestic coal-fired power plants.


We ask about the Chinese leader's promise and that of his US counterpart to pledge more aid for energy transition in developing countries ahead of next month's crucial COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow. Joe Biden made no mention of coal in his speech. We ask about the domestic politics that factor into the Democrats' energy transition policies.

Speaking of energy transition, the other big concern as world leaders meet in New York for UN Week is a post-pandemic skyrocketing in prices of natural gas, an energy source that was billed as the wonder solution for a seamless switch from fossil fuels to the renewables of tomorrow. In Europe and particularly the UK, it's an immediate concern, with fears of shortages this coming winter. It's also a strategic concern, what with major supplier Russia about to get a lot more leverage when the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany comes online. Can superpowers put aside spiralling rivalries for the common good of the planet?

Produced by Charles Wente, Juliette Laurain and Imen Mellaz.

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