More than 40 progressive organizations sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden and lawmakers on Wednesday, urging them to prioritize cooperation with China on climate change and curb its confrontational approach.
"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," said the letter.
The groups called on the Biden administration and all members of Congress to eschew the "dominant antagonistic approach" to U.S.-China relations and instead prioritize multilateralism, diplomacy, and cooperation with China to address the climate crisis.
The escalating, bipartisan anti-China rhetoric in both Congress and the White House not only damages the diplomatic and political relationships needed to move forward, but also bolsters racist, right-wing movements in the United States, fuels violence against people of East and Southeast Asian descent, said the letter.
"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," said the letter.
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," said the letter.
The steps each country takes to address climate crisis should be commensurate with historical responsibility and wealth, the groups stressed, adding the United States "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.
"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," said the letter.
Both the United States and China bring complementary strengths that could be combined in a transition to a clean global economy, the groups said in the letter.
They called on the United States to work with China to institute changes in such areas as financial support for poorer countries, the open sharing of green technologies, a rewriting of the rules of trade, an end to the regulatory race to the bottom.
"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," said the letter.
Climate change has been a global crisis. Recently record heat wave brought triple-digit temperatures to the Pacific Northwest and western Canada, killing hundreds of people and bringing devastating drought.
Researchers estimated that human-caused climate change increased the likelihood of such a heat wave by at least 150 times.
They urged adaption measures that account for the rising risk of heat waves, as well as more ambitious targets to drastically reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.