On Thursday, House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY), opened a probe into Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and his secretive negotiations with his Chinese counterparts.
In a letter, Comer informed Kerry that the committee, under his leadership, has opened an investigation into Kerry’s role in the Biden administration and, in particular, his high-level, secretive, climate negotiations with the Chinese Communist Party. Thus far, Kerry has ignored information and document requests from Comer and other committee Republicans, which were sent while they were in the minority.
“To date, you have failed to respond to any of our requests,” Comer wrote to Kerry. “Yet, you continue to engage in activities that could undermine our economic health, skirt congressional authority, and threaten foreign policy under the guise of climate advocacy.”
“The Committee requests documents and information to understand your role and provide necessary transparency over the SPEC and its activities,” he continued. “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.”
Kerry was appointed by President Biden to be the U.S. SPEC, which was a new position and did not require Senate approval, shortly after the president took office in early 2021. The SPEC office is housed at the State Department, with an estimated $13.9 million annual budget with approval for 45 personnel.
The position gives Kerry a spot on the president’s cabinet and on the National Security Council. Since taking on the role, Kerry has traveled across the world, notably to attend high-profile climate summits and diplomatic engagements, as the Biden administration attempts to shift away from fossil fuels toward green energy alternatives.
In spite of his high-level role, and importance in leading the Biden administration’s climate strategy, Kerry’s office has given very little information about its internal operations and staff members, which has sparked intense criticism from Republicans, including Comer, who have demanded transparency for such a crucial office.
“We are left with an insufficient understanding of your office’s activities, spending, and staffing,” Comer continued. “To enable long overdue oversight of your office, please provide the following documents and information.”
The Oversight Committee chairman added that Kerry has been too soft on China’s human rights violations “while promoting climate negotiations that the CCP does not even appear interested in entering.”
Kerry has made multiple comments which seem to downplay the human rights abuses tied to China’s green energy supply chain. When he was asked in November 2021 about how slave labor was reportedly employed by solar panel firms in China, Kerry claimed that he had to stay in his “lane” while negotiating with Chinese officials.
“Well we’re honest about the differences,” Kerry said at the time. “We certainly know what they are, and we’ve articulated them, but that’s not my lane here. … My job is to be the climate guy and stay focused on trying to move the climate agenda forward.”
Since beginning his time in the position, Kerry has engaged in multiple secretive talks with Chinese counterparts, including two meetings that took place in China in 2021. After a regional climate summit in April 2021, Kerry told CNBC that solving climate change was “not about China.”
“This is not about China. This is not a counter to China,” he told the outlet. “This is about China, the United States, India, Russia… a bunch of countries that are emitting a pretty sizable amount.”
However, China is responsible for 27% of all global carbon emissions, almost three times the number emitted by the United States, the world’s second largest emitter. The country continues to approve the construction of coal power plants.
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