Biden’s Climate Diplomacy Has a Human Rights Blind Spot

Biden’s Climate Diplomacy Has a Human Rights Blind Spot
U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a press conference, in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sept. 10, 2023 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed representatives of 20 countries to San Francisco yesterday for the start of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, Summit, which will continue through Nov. 16. The summit’s theme is “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All,” a focus that will include discussion of the need for governments to make the response to the climate crisis central to their foreign policy and economic ambitions. As host of the conference, the U.S. has an opportunity to lead by example on the climate crisis. But doing so will require including human rights priorities in the Biden administration’s climate diplomacy, an approach the administration has been reluctant to adopt over the past three years.

The human rights protections required for activists and civil society to operate cannot be separated from a country’s progress on environmental issues. Nevertheless, Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, has been tasked with pushing through tough climate negotiations in the absence of a consistent and committed government-wide human rights approach. Now climate action is running aground, both among countries the U.S. counts as climate partners in the Indo-Pacific, and among wealthy nations—including the U.S.—that have failed to mobilize the level of funding needed for a global response to the crisis.

The APEC Summit presents an opportunity to prioritize human rights in climate policy. To begin, this requires considering the conditions in which climate activists and environmental leaders operate as a metric of successful climate response. And the human rights landscape across key partner states in the Indo-Pacific isn’t promising.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.