A coalition of progressive and environmental groups took a roasting on the right after urging President Biden to quit bad-mouthing Beijing to secure its cooperation on climate change.
The 48 organizations, including 350 Action, the Sunrise Movement and the Union of Concerned Scientists, implored Mr. Biden and Congress in a letter last week to stop the “U.S. demonization of China” and prioritize diplomacy to tackle “the climate crisis.”
“The escalating, bipartisan anti-China rhetoric in both Congress and the White House damages the diplomatic and political relationships needed to move forward boldly and cooperatively,” said the letter. “It also bolsters racist, right-wing movements in the United States, fuels violence against people of East and Southeast Asian descent, paves the way for higher U.S. military spending, and, critically, does nothing to actually support the wellbeing of everyday people in either China or the United States.
The groups said nothing about the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s human-rights abuses, including its Uyghur internment camps and Hong Kong crackdown, but critics were quick to fill in the blanks.
Larry Behrens, Western states director of Power the Future, called the environmentalist position “despicable.”
“This pathetic plea for appeasement from the eco-left should make it abundantly clear they will do anything to advance their radical ideology,” said Mr. Behrens. “These environmental groups would rather pressure the Biden Administration to work with the Chinese Communist Party than stand up for energy workers at home and against forced labor abroad.”
The letter echoed some Chinese talking points, such as the argument that the United States should do more than China on climate because U.S. wealth is greater and cumulative U.S. emissions dating back to the Industrial Revolution are higher.
“The steps each country takes to address this global crisis should be commensurate with historical responsibility and wealth,” said the letter. “In other words, the U.S. can and must do much more than China if the world is to equitably stay on course to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Said Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, on Fox’s “America’s Newsroom”: “Sounds like Chinese propaganda to me.”
Critics have accused China of leveraging the climate issue for political and economic gain. The world’s biggest polluter since 2005, China continues to build coal-fired plants, while the U.S. leads the globe in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Under the non-binding 2015 Paris climate agreement, the U.S. pledged to reduce its emissions by 26-28% by 2025, while China agreed to try to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030.
Rebekah Hoshiko, communications director for House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Bruce Westerman, said it was “irresponsible to place the U.S. at the center of the problem when China is the clear aggressor here.”
“The latest stats show China accounts for nearly 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, almost triple what the U.S. produces,” she said. “That’s not to say the U.S. shouldn’t do its part. We are, and have been for some time, making our domestic energy production cleaner and safer than ever.”
Steve Milloy, publisher of JunkScience and a member of former President Trump’s EPA transition team, said the letter aligned with Biden climate special envoy John Kerry’s approach to China.
“That’s been John Kerry’s position all along, that somehow climate can be managed on a separate track from everything else that China does, which of course is entirely crazy,” said Mr. Milloy. “China is not going to compartmentalize climate for John Kerry.”
Marc Morano, publisher of Climate Depot, called it “bonkers” to limit the U.S. focus on China to climate change.
“In doing so, we are going to completely kneecap the United States by continuing to shut down our energy and then turning it over to China, which by the way is building the equivalent of one new coal plant a week as America shuts down our energy,” said Mr. Morano on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Not on the letter was the Natural Resources Defense Council, which was the target of a House Natural Resources Committee inquiry in 2018 over its involvement in China, where the group has provided “technical and legal expertise for more than 20 years,” according to the NRDC website.
In a June 2018 letter, the GOP-led committee said it had concerns about “the NRDC’s role in aiding China’s perception management efforts with respect to pollution control and its international standing on environmental issues in ways that may be detrimental to the United States.”
“The NRDC’s ability to work in China is dependent on the goodwill of the Chinese Government. The NRDC leadership regularly meets with senior Chinese and Communist Party officials,” said the committee letter. “NRDC press releases, blog posts, and reports consistently praise the Chinese government’s environmental initiatives.”
The NRDC defended its relationship with China, arguing that the world’s most populous nation “has much to do with the kind of world the next generation will inherit, in our country and around the world.”
“We’re proud of work, in China and elsewhere, helping to create a more sustainable future for everyone,” said the NRDC in a statement on June 5, 2018.
Democrats discontinued the committee’s queries after taking control of the House in January 2019, Ms. Hoshiko said.