Members of Congress Urge Climate Diplomacy with China
Washington, DC – In advance of the upcoming 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), Reps. Judy Chu (CA-27), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) sent a letter signed by 31 other Members of Congress encouraging President Biden to engage in diplomatic efforts with China to address the growing climate crisis. As increasingly confrontational rhetoric around China has led to an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes domestically, the Members seek to encourage more dialogue, especially prioritizing urgent areas of mutual interest where US-China cooperation can be most impactful, like climate change.
“U.S. collaboration with China on climate is fundamental due to China’s major role in emitting carbon dioxide but also as a leading producer of the green technologies required for decarbonization,” wrote the members. “Simply put, there is no conceivable way to address the climate crisis without substantially strengthening communication and collaboration between our nations.”
Acknowledging that the “U.S. will not neglect our values and interests, including speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party’s numerous problematic and widely condemned actions and human rights violations,” the letter emphasizes the importance of “positive-sum cooperation between the U.S. and China” in mitigating climate change. Doing so will not only address an urgent need threatening the entire globe, it will also do so while “reducing the potential for military confrontations that could threaten our national security.”
The letter was cosigned by Reps. Jared Huffman, Rashida Tlaib, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mark Pocan, Karen Bass, Earl Blumenauer, Steve Cohen, Ted Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Jesús G. "Chuy" García, Julia Brownley, Andy Levin, Darren Soto, Grace Napolitano, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Juan Vargas, Pramila Jayapal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman Ed.D., Nanette Diaz Barragán, Alma S. Adams, PhD, Ed Case, David Trone, Katie Porter, Jimmy Gomez, Jerrold Nadler, Mark DeSaulnier, Linda T. Sánchez, and Ro Khanna.
It is available online here and below.
Dear President Biden,
We write in support of your administration's recent moves to engage in diplomacy with the government of China to advance U.S. interests and values while reducing the potential for military confrontations that could threaten our national security1 We encourage you to maintain and strengthen diplomatic focus on other national security threats, in particular the immense danger posed by climate change.
Your diplomatic engagement comes after three years without formal, high-level strategic dialogues under the previous administration that has set us back in addressing national security concerns, including climate change.2 As you have recognized in your January 27 executive order, “we have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.”3 As the first and second leading countries in total carbon emissions, it is crucial that the U.S. and the government of China continue to strengthen communication and pursue cooperation to address the climate crisis.
U.S. collaboration with China on climate is fundamental due to China’s major role in emitting carbon dioxide but also as a leading producer of the green technologies required for decarbonization. Simply put, there is no conceivable way to address the climate crisis without substantially strengthening communication and collaboration between our nations. In preparation for the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP-26), we hope that you will be able to work with China to fulfill the important commitments previously laid out.4
The U.S. will not neglect our values and interests, including speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party’s numerous problematic and widely condemned actions and human rights violations. But this cannot prevent us from exploring potential areas where our nations may be able to reduce tensions and find greater understanding. Recent polling shows that 62 percent of U.S. voters agree that the U.S. should engage in official dialogue with China’s government to reduce tensions.5 Given the unparalleled threat that climate poses to our planet, we shouldn’t let any current friction in the relationship lead to irreversible climate change.
Evidence indicates that engagement does work: new research found that official dialogue processes between the U.S. and China were critical in advancing national and global security interests such as climate change mitigation.6 In particular, the Strategic and Economic Dialogue was instrumental in getting China to join the Paris Climate Agreement.7
Lastly, we applaud your recent pledge to increase the U.S. contribution to international climate finance to $11.4 billion a year by 2024, and urge you to keep increasing these contributions8 The U.S. has a responsibility as the largest historical emitter to assist poorer countries in mitigating climate change. Leading investment in the developing world’s transition to green technology will not only create the green jobs of the future at home but will also be a signal to the developing world that the U.S. is committed to supporting their development and sustainability for decades to come. China’s government should also be a critical partner in those efforts. Recent commitments by the government of China to end financing of coal-fired energy plants abroad show that they are feeling pressure to move their development efforts in a climate-friendly direction.
Positive-sum cooperation between the U.S. and China, and multilateral initiatives like the Green Climate Fund in support of green energy around the world could provide incentives for the government of China to fully execute on its commitments and create unparalleled opportunities for years to come. We urge you to explore these and other opportunities for joint action that can make the upcoming UN climate conference a success.
We stand ready to support your efforts to strengthen diplomacy, cooperation, and investment in green technology in America and around the world.