Oversight chair requests details on Kerry’s international climate negotiations

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House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) on Thursday requested information from U.S. climate envoy John Kerry on the details of Kerry’s international negotiations for the Biden administration, particularly with Chinese officials.

In a Thursday letter, Comer said Kerry has thus far not responded to inquiries from the Republicans on the committee regarding the nature of his work in the non-Senate-confirmed position. Specifically, the letter cites comments Kerry made in 2022 suggesting he has engaged in talks with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials to collaborate on greenhouse gas emission reduction.

“As a member of the President’s cabinet, you should be representing the United States’ interests. Your statements, however, consistently show disregard for American national security and taxpayer dollars,” Comer wrote. “You have also continued to downplay the CCP’s human rights violations and its antagonism against the U.S. while promoting climate negotiations that the CCP does not even appear interested in entering.”

Comer’s letter requests internal communications on the budget for Kerry’s position since he assumed the role in 2021, as well as from people present for those discussions, those employed by his office and documents pertaining to Kerry’s travel in the role.

In his role as climate envoy, Kerry has emphasized the need for cooperation from China, the world’s top emitter of planet-warming gases, to make a meaningful dent in emissions. In 2021, he said Beijing was “not doing enough.”

“They have a massive coal dependency. We have to try to get them to move further and we have to also ask China not to be funding the building of new coal-fired power plants in other parts of the world,” Kerry said.

The same year, Kerry drew criticism from Republicans after saying the U.S. must compartmentalize China’s human rights record to focus on meaningful collaboration on climate issues in particular. In November 2021, Comer, then the ranking member of the committee, called for a hearing on Kerry’s duties in the role.

“While the Department does not comment on Congressional inquiries, the Department works to appropriately accommodate such requests,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill. “Separately, the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate has and will continue to engage Members of Congress on international efforts to combat the climate crisis.”

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