Energy & Environment

Progressive groups warn of risk to climate from US confrontational approach to China

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Dozens of progressive organizations warned in a letter Thursday that escalating U.S.-China tensions could undermine cooperation on international climate goals and continue what they called a tradition of scapegoating China for the climate crisis.

In the letter, the groups called for an end to the “dominant antagonistic approach” to relations between Washington and Beijing. The ongoing tensions, they write, will both hamper international cooperation and “bolster… racist, right-wing movements” domestically.

Over 40 organizations signed on to the letter including the Sunrise Movement, the Union of Concerned Scientists, CODEPINK and MoveOn.

China emits the largest amount of greenhouse gases in the world, but the country has lower emissions per capita than the U.S., the second-largest.

While the Biden administration has sought to repair international ties with other major economies on climate issues, it has also directly confronted Beijing on human rights issues such as the detention of Uyghur Muslims.

“China and the United States should not only work together to support international best practice environmental, human rights, social, and governance standards, but also to ensure that producer countries and communities have access to affordable and clean energy — and the resources needed to mitigate the impacts of climate change,” the letter states.

White House climate envoy John Kerry has insisted the U.S. can develop cooperate climate policies with Beijing while continuing to press its government on other issues.

“Obviously we have serious differences with China,” Kerry said in January. “Those issues will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate. That’s not going to happen.”

However, Kerry has been critical of China’s contribution to international climate efforts as well, saying in April during a CNN town hall that “they have a massive coal dependency. We have to try to get them to move further and we have to also ask China not to be funding the building of new coal-fired power plants in other parts of the world.”

Congressional progressives, meanwhile, have also called for better balance between condemnation of Chinese human rights abuses and what they say is Cold War-style rhetoric about the nation.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who has also criticized China’s treatment of Uyghurs, said in May that the U.S. must “distinguish between justified criticisms of the Chinese government’s human rights record and a Cold War mentality that uses China as a scapegoat for our own domestic problems and demonizes Chinese Americans,” according to Politico.

Tags Ilhan Omar John Kerry

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