Democrats call on Biden to sanction climate change contributors

Sen. Elizabeth Warren outside the Capitol
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Democrats in the House and Senate are calling on President Biden to use targeted sanctions to root out and punish individuals and companies found to be worsening the climate crisis, with a focus on reining in China’s behavior and going after illegal networks harming the environment.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent Thursday, progressive Democrats urge the administration to make use of sanctions to target individuals and companies “that are perpetrating the worst climate damage.”

The lawmakers called on the administration to use sanction authorities under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to target individuals and companies that are involved in climate-related corruption and human rights abuses abroad.

The letter was signed by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas).

The Magnitsky Act became law in 2016 and has been used by both the Trump and Biden administrations to target individuals and companies engaged in corruption or human rights abuses around the world — such as in Russia, China, Belarus, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Cuba, to name a few.

The Democratic lawmakers say this law can target “climate-destroying behavior.”

“The federal government has yet to use targeted sanctions as a method of deterring reckless, climate-destroying behavior,” the lawmakers wrote. “In combination with diplomacy, international climate aid, global agreements, and voluntary pledges that can encourage positive climate action, targeted measures could deter government officials, corporations, and private individuals from causing additional harm.”

The lawmakers further say that Magnitsky sanctions related to the climate crisis could be used as part of U.S. policy toward China, which is found to emit the most greenhouse gases of any country in the world. 

“While it is promising that the [People’s Republic of China] announced it will stop building coal-fired projects in other countries, the PRC is the largest emitter of global carbon emissions, and the United States must work to ensure that its development finance institutions do not undermine global decarbonization efforts,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Democrats also said that Magnitsky sanctions could be used to go after individuals and companies that contribute to illegal deforestation in the Amazon, saying such activity contributes to human rights abuses and worsens the climate crisis. 

“Perpetrators of such abuses are rarely brought to justice. Sanctions could target the networks of individuals, companies, and criminal organizations engaged in these activities,” they wrote.

The letter to the administration comes amid the United Nations global conference on climate change, COP26, where world leaders and leading scientists are warning of imminent, catastrophic consequences if nations fail to roll back industrial activities contributing to the planet’s rising temperature.

Tags Antony Blinken Bernie Sanders Climate change Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren International sanctions Janet Yellen Joe Biden Magnitsky Act Veronica Escobar

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