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Unlike Senate, House Democrats make climate push in China bill

House bill would make major investments not included in Senate-passed version

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a main sponsor of the Senate bill, cited technological competition with China as an economic and national security imperative, but his bill does not include climate provisions.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a main sponsor of the Senate bill, cited technological competition with China as an economic and national security imperative, but his bill does not include climate provisions. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House version of a sprawling technology draft bill unveiled Tuesday incorporates a host of climate-related provisions not included in the legislation that passed the Senate last year in a bipartisan vote.

Leaders from both sides of the aisle have cast the legislation as an effort to step up America’s technological game in response to a rising China.

But House Democrats said the Senate version excluded climate change considerations from its approach to foreign affairs.

[Biden didn’t get all he wanted on climate, but it’s a new year]

In contrast, their draft bill would include provisions intended to improve interagency coordination on climate change, increase the State Department’s emphasis on the issue and foster partnerships between financial institutions investing in clean energy.

That would include the promotion of climate-resilient development in the Pacific islands region and new efforts at developing clean energy technologies.

The House version also would authorize $8 billion over two years for the Green Climate Fund, a U.N. effort to help emerging economies cope with climate change.

The introduction of the House bill comes roughly half a year after the Senate passed its version. It also comes the week before the Winter Olympics are set to begin in China, which is facing international boycotts of the games over its forced labor camps and human rights abuses against the Uyghur population, a mostly Muslim ethnic group, and other minority populations.

Global influence

Top Democrats cast both versions of the bill as tools to combat the growing influence of China, the world’s second-largest economy, over digital technology, climate change, trade and energy use, among other topics.

“The stakes we face are enormous,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said in a statement. “If we do not invest now in researching, developing and manufacturing the technologies of the future, we risk falling behind China and other global competitors, endangering U.S. jobs, intellectual property and national security.”

Unlike the Senate’s bill, which the chamber passed by a vote of 68-32 last June and was a priority for Schumer, the House draft bill would place a heavy focus on steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change and help low-income countries prepare for a warmer world.

President Joe Biden said late Tuesday he was “heartened by Congress’ bipartisan work so far” and added that the legislation “will help tackle the climate crisis.”

The $8 billion the bill would authorize for the Green Climate Fund would be an enormous jump from what Congress typically spends.

In the latest State-Foreign Operations spending bill, the House Appropriations Committee proposes to raise the U.S. contribution to the fund to $1.6 billion in fiscal 2022 from $625 million enacted for fiscal 2021. Outside experts say that amount is a fraction of what the U.S. should provide.

The House draft competition bill would also authorize $600 million annually from fiscal 2022 through 2026 for a new Energy Department program to construct and pursue solar projects to make the country “less reliant on solar components made in China.” That section does not appear in the Senate legislation.

In a rejoinder to Beijing’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” a long-term plan to generate geopolitical favor by supporting maritime and land corridors connecting China with other countries in Asia as well as with nations in the Middle East and Africa, the House bill would seek to carve out U.S. influence abroad.

The legislation would amend federal law to include a goal to help “African countries to reduce their energy dependence on countries that use energy dependence for undue political influence.” It also would require the State Department to submit a strategy to Congress for countering Chinese influence in “and access to” the Middle East and Africa. And it would direct the White House to create a federal plan “to counter predatory lending and financing by the Government of China in the energy sectors of developing countries.”

Additionally from the State Department, the bill would require a report on Chinese government investments in foreign countries.

The legislation would create a coordinator of climate change resilience position at the State Department to oversee development of a 10-year strategy for mitigating global climate change impacts. It also would provide supplemental foreign aid for clean energy and adaptation.

The House bill would include provisions to advance international efforts to reduce super pollutants such as black carbon, methane and hydrofluorocarbons that pack a particularly heavy planet-warming punch and are seen as critical to tackling climate change.

That would include incorporating considerations of super pollutants into international agreements and pushing global financial institutions to support alternative technologies capable of reducing such emissions.

It also would task the State Department with writing a report on how to re-engage other countries on already agreed-upon methane and black carbon reduction targets.

A dressed-up name for soot, black carbon comes from burning fossil fuels. It has a particularly damaging effect on the Arctic due to what is called the “albedo effect,” the phenomenon that explains how lighter substances reflect sunlight while darker ones absorb its heat.

As black carbon from industrial activity, primarily in Europe, Asia and North America, gets lodged in the Arctic, it accelerates the melting of sea ice.

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