Observers of the US and China this week may ponder whether a joint call to tackle the climate crisis marks a positive change in their fraught relationship, as the two leaders meet for the first time since Joe Biden was sworn into office.
After four years of Donald Trump, the bilateral relationship has reached its lowest ebb since formal ties were established in January 1979. In both capitals, fear of a “new cold war” is on the rise. Many highlight growing competition, and the opposing nature of the two countries’ political systems.
Biden has so-far shown no sign of changing course on his China policy. Compared with his predecessor his tone may appear more discreet, but the war of words between top American and Chinese diplomats last month in Alaska offered a glimpse at the tensions beneath the surface. This may be a preview of what’s to come in the years ahead.
Yet the US and China issued a joint pledge following the US climate envoy, John Kerry’s visit to Shanghai last week.
And on Thursday China’s president, Xi Jinping, will attend a virtual US-led climate change summit at Biden’s invitation, leaving observers of the bilateral relationship with much to interpret and decode.
Greta Thunberg more or less had the last word at the congressional environmental hearing – at least the last meaningful word.
California Democratic congresswoman Katie Porter asked the Swedish activist what she should tell her nine-year-old daughter who comes to her fretting that “Earth is on fire and we’re all going to die soon”?
That’s like Throwback Thursday for Boomers who grew up amid the Cold War and US-USSR nuclear missile arms race, watching as the adults in charge willfully hurtled towards imminent catastrophe…
So Thunberg finished the Earth Day hearing with another strand to her admonish-hope-galvanize proverbial lifeline for the grown ups.
“I know that there are many young people who feel angry and sad because of all the things that some people are doing to to this planet.
“That’s very understandable. It would be strange if we didn’t feel that way, because then we wouldn’t have any empathy.. And if we choose to take action.. there’s unlimited things that we can do.. There are no limits to what we can accomplish.
“And of all ways, the best medication against anger and anxiety is to take action yourself. So that’s what I would tell her – to take action herself because that will make her feel so much better.”
Committee chair Ro Khanna wrapped up the hearing moments later.
California Democrat Katie Porter just tore into leading oil and gas lobbying boss Frank Macchiarola at the congressional committee hearing on the climate emergency.
She indicated she was confident that, somewhere in the labyrinth, government fossil fuel subsidies – alias taxpayer money – end up fueling his salary.
“Why do I have to pay for you to shill for oil companies?” Porter asked.
She continued: “We taxpayers subsidize the oil and gas industry, we did it this year during a pandemic” via some $15bn in pandemic relief alone, while the industry spent a quarter of a billion dollars on lobbying and political donations (mostly to Republicans).
Macchiarola is the senior vice president for policy for the American Petroleum Institute, the largest US trade association for US oil and natural gas companies, representing around 600 corporations.
When he sought to contradict her, Porter hit the gas and plowed right on through him, in her characteristic succinct but no-nonsense style.
“You drill in the Arctic refuge. That’s bad enough why should taxpayers have to subsidize that activity? That’s a bridge too far,” Porter said, citing “pollution, hurting wildlife” and damaging the planet as a result of that industry’s activities.
Macchiarola began: “Thank you for the question, I…”
Porter cut into his lane: “That’s not a question, that’s a fact.”