EXCLUSIVE: House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., vowed Friday to maintain scrutiny of Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry's climate negotiations with China.
Comer said the committee, which has broad investigative authority, remains concerned about Kerry's high-level role in setting climate policy and engaging in international talks despite having never been confirmed by the Senate. The State Department confirmed Friday that Kerry recently restarted climate talks with his Chinese counterpart and is planning additional meetings.
"For the past two years, the Biden Administration has withheld information on John Kerry’s role within the Administration despite the committee’s many requests," Comer told Fox News Digital in a statement. "He was not confirmed by the Senate. He is not held accountable by the American people. He is skirting congressional oversight and that is unacceptable."
"His reported upcoming negotiations with the Chinese on climate topics, an action which he has done on numerous occasions, is inappropriate and potentially undermines U.S. interests and domestic energy security," he continued. "Mr. Kerry’s continued engagement in shady negotiations will be met with intense scrutiny by the committee."
The top Republican lawmaker added that the panel sent letter last week to Secretary of State Antony Blinken related to Kerry’s role as special envoy at the State Department. Comer said he expects "nothing less than full cooperation" from the agency.
Comer announced in February that the Oversight Committee would open a probe into Kerry's secretive negotiations with Chinese climate diplomats.
"Secretary Kerry last spoke virtually with his counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, in April as part of their ongoing conversations on the critical work needed to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis," a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital. "He has been invited by Xie Zhenhua to visit China at some point in the future and continue these conversations in person, but no formal plans for this meeting have been made."
"President Biden and President Xi agreed in one of their first conversations that this is global crisis and that the PRC and the U.S. need to play a role in order to address it," the spokesperson continued. "They also agreed that they would try to keep this issue separate from the many other issues between our two countries."
Since President Biden appointed him as the first-ever SPEC, Kerry's office has been tight-lipped about its actions and has declined to share details about its internal operations, sparking criticism from Comer and other Republicans. Meanwhile, he has jet-set around the world, attending high-profile climate summits and diplomatic engagements on behalf of the U.S. government in an effort to push a global transition from fossil fuels to green energy alternatives.
As part of that effort, Kerry has engaged in various private talks with Chinese counterparts, including two 2021 meetings that took place in China. Following a regional climate summit in April 2021, Kerry told CNBC that solving climate change was "not about China."
However, China still accounts for about 27% of total global emissions — nearly tripling the total from the U.S., the world's second-largest emitter, according to Rhodium Group — and continues to approve and construct a large amount of coal power plants.
In addition, internal State Department emails obtained by Fox News Digital suggest that there is little agency oversight of Kerry's work and that he is considered to be on the same level as Blinken. The emails — recently acquired via records request by watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust and shared with Fox News Digital — came in response to a congressional inquiry in 2021.
"The Secretary of State consults closely and regularly with the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate to ensure policy coordination," a State Department official whose name was redacted told Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff in a May 2021 email responding to a question about whether Blinken has authority over Kerry.
"We have established a variety of mechanisms and channels to ensure robust coordination between their respective staffs, including regular meetings between the Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs of Staff, and other senior policy advisors," the official continued.