Washington DC – Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard testimony from Climate Envoy John Kerry.
During the hearing, Lead Republican Michael McCaul reminded Mr. Kerry that human rights abuses cannot be ignored in an effort to get a climate deal because the two are intertwined, saying:
“I know you can try to compartmentalize it. The problem is that it’s intertwined, because when you look at the supply chain, you look at China. They dominate critical mineral supply and solar supply chains all coming out of the Xinjiang province which we believe is using slave labor to create these renewable energy sources.”
In response, Kerry admitted slave labor had infiltrated the world’s green energy supply chain:
“You’re absolutely correct. It is a problem. Xinjiang province not only produces some solar panels that we believe, in some cases, are being produced with forced labor by Uyghurs.”
“Thank you Chairman for holding today’s hearing. And I want to welcome you, Secretary Kerry, back to the Hill. It’s good to see you.
I believe the climate is changing, and we must take steps to address it. However, the answer is not the Paris Agreement in its current form.
The People’s Republic of China is the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter and is responsible for almost 30 percent of global emissions. Yet, the Paris agreement does the bare minimum to hold the PRC accountable, while allowing them to continue increasing their emissions until 2030.
At the same time, it disproportionately penalizes American workers and American industries – even though the PRC emits over twice as much carbon dioxide as the United States.
Mr. Secretary, I understand you’ve got a big challenge ahead of you and we had a good visit on this issue. But I just don’t see how we can truly make an impact if China isn’t held to the same standard as the United States.
Last year alone, the Chinese Communist Party brought more than three times as many new coal powered plants online in the PRC as the rest of the world combined. And they aren’t just polluting at home. Beijing is exporting coal-fired power plants throughout the developing world through their Belt and Road Initiative. In fact, the CCP is the biggest financier of coal plants in the world.
It’s clear the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t care about the environment. They have proven time and again they cannot be trusted and are not a reliable partner in addressing climate change. That’s why I have worked with Reps. Graves and McMorris Rodgers to introduce the Paris Transparency and Accountability Act.
Our bill acknowledges that it’s vital we renegotiate the Paris Agreement to create a level playing field. And it calls for this new agreement to be submitted for Senate approval. Any comprehensive agreement that will significantly impact American jobs and the American economy deserves that much.
Our bill would also ensure there is sufficient oversight of the committees and commitments the president makes on behalf of the American people under the agreement. And it makes certain those commitments don’t jeopardize our national security or our competitiveness.
Like you Secretary Kerry, I am a father. And I care about the world we are leaving behind for our children and our grandchildren, and we have that in common. Yet, after the United States finally achieved energy independence in oil and natural gas, we now appear to be tying our future energy needs to the CCP-dominated supply chains, such as solar panels and electric batteries. If we truly want to reduce emissions, we must keep all these options on the table.
That also means investing in renewable energy. But it also means expanding our nuclear energy capabilities, including as you know I’ve talked about, the small modular reactors with zero carbon emissions. And it means utilizing fossil fuels with a smaller environmental impact. For example, LNG from my home state of Texas has significantly lower lifecycle emissions than coal or Russian-piped gas.
The United States has been a leader in addressing climate risks through innovation and technology. Now, more than ever, we need to take advantage of our strengths, which have enabled us to become energy independent.
Secretary Kerry, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what steps can be taken to address climate risks in a responsible way that also protects American interests and American jobs.
Before I close. I – and many of my colleagues – are concerned by alleged conversations that you have reportedly had with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif after you were Secretary of State. Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror and one of our biggest adversaries.
I hope you will address these allegations today before Congress. And I hope you will reassure this committee classified or sensitive information was not shared with Iranian officials when you were either Secretary of State or after you left your post.
I thank you again for for being here today. And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman and welcome Mr. Secretary. You have a very enormous challenge but very important one in front of you.
Secretary Blinken and Pompeo have both said that the CCP is committing genocide against the Uyghur Muslim population. Last month this committee marked up a bill that I introduced along with chairman Meeks condemning this genocide.
You recently said that, I quote, “we have other differences on human rights, but those should not get in the way of something that is as critical as dealing with climate.”
I know you can try to compartmentalize it. The problem is that it’s intertwined, because when you look at the supply chain, you look at China. They dominate critical mineral supply and solar supply chains all coming out of the Xinjiang province which we believe is using slave labor to create these renewable energy sources.
So my question to you is how can you ensure us that this quest that we’re on, that slave labor coming out of China where genocide is taking place as we speak, are never a part of the climate solution in the United States?”
Climate Envoy John Kerry:
“You’re absolutely correct. It is a problem. Xinjiang province not only produces some solar panels that we believe, in some cases, are being produced with forced labor by Uyghurs. But also, there are a significant amount of rare earth minerals used in the solar panels themselves. It is my understanding that the Biden Administration is right now in the process of assessing whether or not that would be the target of sanctions. I’ve heard some discussion about it…”