Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Building political consensus on climate change


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Geopolitics of climate change and India's role in it

With the victory of Joe Biden in the U.S. Presidential election geopolitics of the climate change is headed for a new reset. The article examines the role India could play in the changing geopolitical realities and also spells out the challenge for India.

India’s role in geopolitics of climate change

  • India is probably better prepared than in the past when India was widely seen as part of the problem on climate issues.
  • But the urgency of addressing climate change is likely to intensify for two reasons:
  • 1) The election of Biden as US President.
  • 2) The prospect of cooperation on climate change between Washington and Beijing.
  • India’s ability to influence the new geopolitics of climate change will depend a lot on its domestic political resilience in adapting to the new imperatives.
  • While a democratic India struggles to deal with the new internal conflicts centred on climate, China has crafted a new template of “coercive environmentalism”.
  • The Chinese model of coercive environmentalism is finding an echo among some Western environmentalists.
  • Whatever the merits of authoritarian environmentalism, it has little political chance of being replicated in democracies.

Cooperation on climate change between the US and China

  • Modernising liberal environmentalism is the essence of president-elect Biden’s commitment to integrating the climate question with the domestic policy agenda.
  • “Climate justice” is another important objective of Biden’s domestic environmental policy.
  • It is based on the recognition that pollution and other ecological problems have a greater impact on the poor and minorities.
  • Although coercive and liberal approaches to managing climate change are different, the US and China share some important objectives.
  • Both China and the US (along with the West) recognise the urgency of the challenge.
  • Beijing and Washington are also racing to develop new technologies that will constitute the foundations of the green economic future.
  • Both have zeroed in on industrial policy to achieve their climate objectives.
  • For Xi and Biden, gaining the leadership of the global movement for mitigating climate change is a strategic mission.
  • Washington and Beijing understand that climate politics is in the end about rearranging the global order.
  • Consequently, the new direction of Chinese and US policies (in partnership with Europe and Japan) will inevitably put pressure on other states for climate actions.


India’s real test on climate change is on building a new domestic consensus that can address the economic and political costs associated with an internal adjustment to the prospect of a great global reset.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.