Does a weak international climate accord presage weak international resolve on Iran? That’s the provocative argument anonymous diplomats made to Haaretz over the weekend following the U.N. summit in Copenhagen, which produced no binding requirements to lower emissions.
Following the end of the summit, diplomats said that China’s flexing of its political muscles in its disputes with the United States at the conference should serve as a warning of what will happen when the Obama administration seeks to bring tougher sanctions against Iran for U.N. Security Council approval.
China has expressed at least as much hesitance to truly bring the hammer down on Iran as it has to substantively curb its emissions. And if anything, China has greater power when it comes to Security Council resolutions. On a matter like an international climate treaty, China’s influence is huge—any resolution without its support can only accomplish so much, and will look bad to boot—but not formal. Within the 15-member Security Council, however, China’s permanent veto is literal and absolute.