Despite more than fifteen years of high level efforts led by the United Nations to broker a binding agreement on emissions reduction, negotiations at every annual meeting have failed to establish a global agreement, mainly due to significant disagreements between industrialized and developing countries over differentiated responsibilities in reducing emissions. In this paper I describe my experiences as a participant-observer at the 17th United Nations Climate Change summit held in Durban, South Africa, during December 2011. I provide a critical analysis of the political economy of climate change and discuss power dynamics between market, state and civil society actors as well as the shifting geopolitics that mark the emergence of China and India as major players in the climate change arena.

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