Above Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images.
“Amid a climate emergency that is wreaking havoc on communities across the globe, the path to a livable future demands new internationalism rooted in global cooperation, resource sharing, and solidarity.”
A coalition of nearly 50 environmental and other advocacy groups critical of the U.S. government’s increasingly hostile approach to China sent a letter Thursday to President Joe Biden and members of Congress to remind them that the existentially threatening climate emergency is a “global crisis,” which can only be solved through “global cooperation.”
“While we are encouraged by stated commitments from the United States and China to work together and with other countries to enact urgent climate policies, we are deeply troubled by the growing Cold War mentality driving the United States’ approach to China—an antagonistic posture that risks undermining much-needed climate cooperation,” the letter (pdf) says.
“Amid a climate emergency that is wreaking havoc on communities across the globe, the path to a livable future demands new internationalism rooted in global cooperation, resource sharing, and solidarity,” the coalition adds. “Nothing less than the future of our planet depends on ending the new Cold War between the United States and China.”
Written by four dozen progressive organizations—led by Friends of the Earth U.S. and ActionAid USA, and signed by 350 Action, Sunrise Movement, and many others—the letter continues:
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. 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 well-being of everyday people in either China or the United States.Like the pandemic and so many of our most urgent crises, climate change has no nationalistic solutions. To combat the climate crisis and build a global economy that works for everyday working people—in the U.S. and China alike—we must shift from competition to cooperation.
Karen Orenstein, director of the Climate & Energy Program at Friends of the Earth U.S., said in a statement that “rather than the current nationalistic, xenophobic castigation of China by the United States, the climate crisis calls for mutual recognition of humanity, cooperation, and solidarity across the globe.”
Orenstein argued that “this requires the U.S. to stop blaming China for its own failures to tackle the climate emergency and instead do its fair share of global climate action, including deep greenhouse gas reductions at home and massively scaling up finance for developing countries.”
According to Basav Sen, director of the Climate Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), “An aggressive U.S. posture towards China deflects attention from the large degree to which the U.S. is responsible for global crises today, key among them the climate crisis.”
In its letter to the Biden administration and congressional lawmakers, the coalition points out that:
The United States, which is significantly wealthier than China, is the biggest carbon polluter in history—responsible for a staggering one quarter of all emissions since the start of the Industrial Revolution. China’s historical emissions are half those of the United States—and emissions per capita in China are less than half the levels of the United States.A managed decline of worldwide fossil fuel production—with a just transition for workers, communities, and countries dependent on the fossil fuel economy—is a necessity to address the climate crisis. The steps each country takes to address this global crisis should be commensurate with historical responsibility and wealth. 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.The cooperation we need to solve the climate crisis depends on the United States committing to its fair share of climate action, including making urgent domestic emissions reductions and scaling up international climate finance for developing countries—truly leading by example. Regrettably, U.S. politicians have long scapegoated China as an excuse to avoid global climate commitments. From the U.S. refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol to efforts to water down the Paris agreement, the U.S. demonization of China has always been a major barrier to progress in global climate talks.
Tobita Chow, director of Justice is Global, a project of People’s Action, noted that “escalating U.S.-China tensions will feed defense budgets and dangerous nationalist politics, at the expense of urgently needed climate investments.”
The U.S. currently spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined, according to the National Priorities Project at IPS. Moreover, a recent analysis by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found that while China’s military budget increased by 1.9% last year, U.S. military spending in 2020 was 4.4% higher than in 2019.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. has used relief packages to pour seemingly limitless amounts of money into the military budget but is struggling to make even a symbolic contribution to climate-centered infrastructure development on a national scale,” said Dany Sigwalt, co-executive director of Power Shift Network. “It’s beyond time that we move beyond tensions and hate with China to push forward on global climate solutions that can save us all from pending climate collapse.”
As Common Dreams reported last month, soon after Biden called for a gargantuan $753 billion military budget for fiscal year 2022, the U.S. Air Force indicated that it plans to buy fewer small-diameter bombs in favor of spending heavily on “state-of-the-art, long-range weapons that are better-suited for operations in the Pacific,” according to Military.com.
In May, a coalition of 66 anti-war and other advocacy groups, including Win Without War and CodePink, penned a joint statement expressing their deep concerns that “destabilizing arms-racing” threatens to lead to “a predictably devastating conflict.”
That fear was echoed by signatories of Thursday’s letter, which emphasizes that peaceful cooperation “is not only a matter of global justice, it is an investment in our mutual security and collective survival.”
“Escalating U.S. aggression against China, in both rhetoric and policy, will do nothing to lead us towards climate justice for all people in all countries,” said Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid USA. “At this moment, when we are seeing devastating climate impacts affecting every country in the world, including right here at home, we need global solidarity more than ever. Nationalist posturing, thinly veiled xenophobia, and building walls—both real and rhetorical—will only make it harder for frontline communities, and the world, to cope with and eventually resolve the climate crisis.”
The coalition’s letter stresses that “both the U.S. and China bring complementary strengths that could be combined in a transition to a clean global economy,” referring, for example, to Washington’s capacity for “clean technology research” and “immense financial resources” as well as Beijing’s industrial might, the combination of which could be harnessed to expedite the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
“Leaders in both parties in the U.S. have prioritized competition with China over who will ‘win the 21st century,'” said Chow. “But if we fail to work together to address the climate crisis, future generations will have nothing left to ‘win.'”
“Another world is possible,” Chow added. “If the world’s top two economies collaborate on climate, we can rapidly transition to a clean energy global economy and create millions of green jobs around the world.”