End China's 'Developing Country' Advantage | Opinion

China is the world's second-largest economy and largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It is America's chief economic and geopolitical rival, bent on global domination. It exploits forced labor. It manipulates global markets. It steals our technology. It is building hypersonic missiles and a blue-water navy.

Despite all its advances, China is still considered a "developing" country by the international climate community. When international climate delegates meet in Egypt next month, they should launch a process to correct that mistake.

At the time of the 1987 Montreal Protocol and the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, China really was a poor country.

These treaties spell out different roles for developed and developing nations. Developing countries have fewer obligations to act. When they do take steps to limit emissions, it's generally because they're being paid to do so by wealthy developed countries.

International climate agreements like these reflect the world as it was three decades ago, not as it is today. They failed to anticipate that some poor countries would grow rapidly and that future emissions growth would come almost exclusively from these fast-growing economies.

That is just what has happened. Since 1992, China's economy has grown more than 1,000 percent and its greenhouse gas emissions exploded by more than 300 percent. Yet it is still lumped together with small economies like Bolivia, Congo, and Laos.

China is playing us, and the rest of the world, for suckers.

Compounding the problem, there is no established mechanism to change the status of now-modern countries like China.

As a developing country, China has received nearly $1.5 billion dollars in aid over the years through a multinational fund set up under the Montreal Protocol. The United States pumped nearly $1 billion into that kitty.

In this rigged system, the U.S. and other wealthy Western nations are expected to do all the heavy lifting, while China gets a free ride.

Pollution in Beijing
People cross a road on a polluted day in Beijing on October 10, 2020. GREG BAKER / AFP/Getty Images

Next month, the climate elite will climb aboard their private jets and touch down in the opulent resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. They will pat themselves on the back for running a con that allows China and other wealthy nations to completely disregard climate concerns. It even allows the thugs in Beijing to preen and pose as climate defenders, with no cost to their taxpayers or economy.

The system they created makes it virtually impossible to remove China from the list of developing countries without its consent. China has little reason to give up its privilege. Its goal is to dominate the world economically and militarily. Its leaders will not permit the climate elite to stand in the way.

Despite tremendous economic growth, China still insists it deserves the special treatment reserved for developing countries. That is how it justifies its flimsy Paris emissions commitment, which allows it to do virtually nothing to reduce emissions through 2030. In the five years leading up to 2025, China plans to add 270 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants. That is about one-third more than all the coal plants in the United States.

Meanwhile, the United States and other developed countries are expected to adopt completely unrealistic emission targets, like "net zero." Once again, China is given the upper hand.

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, continues to wave the white flag. His top concern is hitting pie-in-the-sky emissions targets. He will eagerly surrender one of America's greatest geopolitical advantages—affordable, abundant, reliable energy. China could not be happier.

The president's special envoy for climate change, John Kerry, is as much responsible for this dismal state of affairs as anyone. He was an architect of the Paris Agreement, which cemented into place China's absurd status as a developing country.

So desperate is the Biden administration to keep China in the fold that Mr. Kerry won't even stick up for human rights there. When asked during a recent meeting with officials if he condemned China's use of forced labor, Kerry balked. "That's not my lane here," he claimed.

Human rights are in everyone's lane.

People are beginning to recognize what is at stake. Last month, the Senate voted 96-0 to declare China should not be considered a developing country. That's a first step. It will take leadership from the president to stop this costly fiction.

The United States should not spend another dime to fund activities under outdated climate treaties. We should also not ratify any treaty that gives China the special economic privilege of being labeled a developing country.

No more free rides for China. That should be non-negotiable.

John Barrasso, a Republican, represents Wyoming in the U.S. Senate and is ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.