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POLI 203 International Politics

Assignment 3: The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and the North-South divide

Due November 11 at 9:00 via Brightspace (note: no class on Nov 11, but assignment is due regardless)

From October 31 to November 12, 2021, the nations of world will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. This meeting is also known as COP26 – COP for “Conference of the Parties” and 26 because this is the 26th meeting since the first was held in Berlin in 1995.

In advance of the meeting, there has been a flurry of speculation among scholars and media outlets. Will COP26 be a success? What would success look like? Can these meetings result in meaningful action to mitigate the worst impacts of climate breakdown?

Dr. Jason Hickel is a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics, where he focuses on the history of global inequality, the North-South divide, international development, and the politics of climate change. Dr. Hickel explicitly ties our climate emergency to the historical and ongoing exploitation of the global South by the global North. To quote Dr. Hickel in a recent (2021) article,

High-income countries are the primary drivers of global ecological breakdown. The global North is responsible for 92 percent of emissions in excess of the planetary boundary, while the consequences of climate breakdown fall disproportionately upon the global South…. Likewise, high-income countries are responsible for the majority of excess global resource use, with an average material footprint of 28 tons per capita per year – four times over the sustainable level… In other words, economic growth in the North relies on patterns of colonization: the appropriation of atmospheric commons, and the appropriation of Southern resources and labour. In terms of both emissions and resource use, the global ecological crisis is playing out along colonial lines.

Last year, Dr. Hickel was interviewed on the Podcast Upstream (“Jason Hickel on International Development and Post-capitalism” May 28, 2020, 56 min).

You can also find the lecture on your preferred podcast player by searching, “Upstream Jason Hickel” or clicking this link for Apple Podcasts:

1. Listen to the Hickel conversation/interview
2. Imagine you are part of a delegation from a wealthy nation at the upcoming COP26 conference.

Prepare a brief, 500-word memo, making sure to address the following questions:

a. What responsibility do wealthy, developed nations have to reduce material consumption and greenhouse gas emissions?

b. How does the North-South gap play into climate change? How do you propose we address these historical and ongoing global inequalities?

Your memo should be double-spaced in 12-pt Times New Roman.

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