Beware green appeasement: John Kerry & China’s price for climate promises

  • Date: 24/11/20
  • Editorial, The Wall Street Journal

‘Chinese leaders will be only too happy to make future promises on climate in return for American acquiescence today to their security priorities of Taiwan, the South China Sea and Huawei.’

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in this September 2016 file photo. Photo: AFP

Joe Biden is wasting no time selecting his governing team, and the initial choices for national security posts that he announced on Monday are heavy with Obama Administration veterans. This means they’ll know how to run a government, though we hope he plans better than a restoration of the status quo pre-Donald Trump.

Mr. Biden’s choices of Antony Blinken to run the State Department and Jake Sullivan as national security adviser will reassure world leaders discomfited by Mr. Trump’s disruption. Mr. Blinken has worked with Mr. Biden for years, which will give him significant policy influence. Mr. Sullivan worked with Hillary Clinton at the State Department and would have had a major job had she won the Presidency.

Both are mainstream liberal internationalists who believe in working on behalf of U.S. interests through multilateral institutions. They favor U.S. leadership as long as it is channeled through the United Nations, NATO and traditional alliances. To borrow a phrase from the Obama era, they favor leading from behind. They’re also enamored with arms control, and Mr. Sullivan criticized Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the 1987 nuclear arms treaty with Russia despite blatant Kremlin cheating. […]

The big disappointment is John Kerry as a cabinet-level special envoy for climate. As a negotiator, Mr. Kerry never drives a hard bargain, as his Iran nuclear deal showed. His cabinet status suggests that climate will be a special negotiating priority rather than one issue among many in foreign policy. Why can’t Mr. Blinken handle it?

Perhaps this is meant to be diplomatic theater to appease the climate left. But it is a bad signal if Mr. Biden considers climate to be a leading national security issue. The fracking-led boom in U.S. oil and gas production has enhanced American security in multiple ways.

It has made the U.S. less dependent on foreign producers and the U.S. economy less hostage to the vagaries of the world oil market. The fall in oil prices, thanks in part to U.S. production, has reduced the clout of dictators in oil-producing countries like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro. U.S. natural gas sales also enhance America’s exports and economic influence.

Mr. Biden has pledged to return the U.S. to the Paris climate accord, which would be a boon to China. Under that agreement the People’s Republic doesn’t have to reduce carbon emissions at all until 2030, while the U.S. will have to impose vast new rules to cut emissions.

Chinese leaders will be only too happy to make future promises on climate in return for American acquiescence today to their security priorities of Taiwan, the South China Sea and Huawei. Sending Mr. Kerry to negotiate with Chinese President Xi Jinping on climate is a recipe for returning home dressed in a barrel. An obsession with climate will turn a U.S. security strength into a vulnerability.

Full op-ed ($)

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