John Kerry Wants To Push Aside ‘Differences On Human Rights’ To Work With China On Climate Change

(Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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Special Climate Envoy and former Secretary of State John Kerry appeared ready to push aside “differences on human rights” in an effort to pursue cooperation with China on climate change.

Foreign Policy’s Ravi Agrawal spoke with Kerry about President Joe Biden’s goals on climate and how he planned to foster a global response to the problem — and how he intended to work with China specifically. (RELATED: China Systematically Under-Reports Pollution Levels, New Study Finds)

“Let’s talk about China. This administration has been fairly tough on China,” Agrawal pressed. “It has accused China of conducting a genocide against the Uyghurs; it has engaged Taiwan … But amid all of this, the Biden White House also really needs China as a partner in fighting climate change. How do you partition this one issue—climate change—from all the other arenas of competition?” (RELATED: UK Joins America In Calling China’s Treatment Of Uyghurs A Genocide)

“[T]he United States doesn’t benefit from not having China as a partner in climate,” Kerry continued. “So we’re just disciplined. We have differences on economic rules, on cyber. We have other differences on human rights … but those differences do not have to get in the way of something that is as critical as dealing with climate.”

China has been accused by the United States and other countries of committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims. Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs have been put into “re-education camps” where a myriad of human rights abuses have taken place. Examples of human rights abuses include forced labor, rape, sexual abuse, forced abortions and sterilizations.

Kerry said that China was already negotiating “in good faith” and that despite a tough initial conversation, he said they had “managed to find a place and a way to be able to agree and move forward.”

“My sense is the Chinese know that there is a benefit to both of us being able to resolve the climate crisis because our citizens are deeply affected by our failure to do so,” he said.

Kerry went on to say that the difficulty was not in convincing the American people that something needed to be done on climate, but rather inspiring the “political will” in Congress to actually get something done, adding that he believed Biden would be in favor of a plan that called for more developed nations to shoulder much of the responsibility.

China would necessarily be a part of such a plan because of its own contribution to factors impacting climate change. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, China contributes 25% of the world’s pollution and burns nearly half the coal used worldwide.