Climate Again Near Top of 2021 Risks According to Eurasia Group’s Annual Assessment

Each January, the Eurasia Group, a management consultancy, looks at the biggest global political risks in the year to come.  Climate change is perennially on the list — this year it ranks third behind public doubt in the legitimacy of President-elect Biden’s election and the coronavirus.  But as they astutely point out, these three political risks are inextricably linked.

  • As Eurasia’s founder and President Ian Bremmer explained on MSNBC, without coronavirus, it is unlikely that Biden would have beaten President Trump.
  • And the coronavirus also provided a huge opportunity for real progress on climate change because of Biden’s election and the funding governments are providing to rebuild global economies more sustainably.

Why This Matters:  “In 2021, climate will go from a playground of global cooperation to an arena of global competition.” In particular, for the U.S. it will be an area of competition and conflict with China, according to Bremmer. And to win the future, we must win on climate technology development and exports, an area where we lag behind China right now.

To Go Deeper: Read the full report here – it’s worth your time.

The Climate Change Political Risks Ahead

The first key point is “the U.S. is now in the game” and climate commitments at the annual UN climate meeting in Glasgow in November “will matter in 2021 like never before.”  Given a deadlocked Senate, the Biden administration will be required to use executive action to make progress, and that means more regulation to drive down emissions, as well as setting in motion market realities that will cause greater reductions in clean energy costs that are likely to continue indefinitely.  That will, in turn, set off a heated (pardon the pun) global competition to provide the products and technologies needed to meet the global emission reduction requirements.

On that front, the U.S. will have to take on, and catch China, and that competition could be destabilizing.  According to the authors of the Report,

“as the US scrambles to catch up to China in what will quickly become a global clean energy arms race, it will make climate and the energy transition a matter of industrial and national security policy.”

In a “G-zero” world — one without a small set of dominating nations — the potential for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 grows more possible, according to the Report.  But global tensions over winning that clean energy and sustainable future will also grow.  And given government expenditures to address the climate threat, “politics will be decisive, and winners and losers will be determined by factors other than market forces.”

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