EXCLUSIVE: Republican leaders told Fox News Digital that they are concerned about President Biden’s appointment of White House adviser John Podesta to replace John Kerry as America’s top climate diplomat.

In an announcement late Wednesday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced the personnel move, saying Podesta would serve a “critical” role in overseeing international climate negotiations, especially as nations develop their next round of emissions targets. But the appointment of Podesta — who has had a close relationship with Chinese officials — sparked concern among Republicans.

“For over two years, the Biden Administration resisted and obstructed the Committee on Oversight and Accountability’s efforts to bring transparency to Climate Envoy John Kerry’s office,” House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., told Fox News Digital in a statement. “Kerry repeatedly skirted Congressional authority as he ignored questions about his deals with foreign governments, unchecked collusion with leftist environmental groups, and negotiations with the Chinese Communist Party.”

“John Kerry’s recently announced successor John Podesta has made public comments that give us reason to remain concerned about the nature of the Biden Administration’s Climate Envoy’s negotiations with the CCP,” he added. “We will continue to call on the Biden Administration to be transparent about their activities with both the Committee and the American people and expect they cooperate as we do so.”


WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Center for American Progress Co-founder John Podesta moderates a panel discussion during a conference commemorating the 10th anniversary of the center at the Astor Ballroom of the St. Regis Hotel October 24, 2013 in Washington, DC. Former Clinton Administration Chief of Staff Podesta co-founded the liberal public policy research and advocacy organization as a think tank that rivals conservative policy groups, such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Biden appointed White House clean energy czar John Podesta, pictured here, to replace John Kerry as special presidential envoy for climate on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

Shortly after Biden picked Podesta to lead the White House Office of Clean Energy Innovation in 2022, Fox News Digital reported that Podesta previously referred to top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official Tung Chee-hwa as his “friend” and took several phone calls from him between 2015 and 2016. The report was based on emails reviewed and verified by Fox News Digital.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., the chair of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, added, “The Biden administration is laboring under the fantasy that somehow we can get a big climate change agreement with China and all sing ‘Kumbaya,’ sunshine and rainbows.” 

“They’re interested in undermining American leadership. And we’re giving them a massive assist by unilaterally disarming as the Biden administration is doing with their misguided energy strategy,” Gallagher told Fox News Digital. “It’s a waste of carbon to negotiate with these people. China is not interested in climate change.”


In February 2015, days after Podesta left the Obama administration, his assistant, Eryn Sepp, informed him that he would be receiving a call on his “house line” from Tung Chee-hwa, the longtime vice chair of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). According to the U.S. government, the CPPCC is a “critical coordinating body” that brings together Chinese interest groups and is led by the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee.

The CPPCC's Tung Chee-hwa

Tung Chee-hwa (YouTube/Screenshot)

Weeks later, Sepp and Tung’s office exchanged emails to arrange another call between Podesta and Tung. Then in June 2015, Podesta told Melanie Hart, who is currently a China policy adviser at the State Department, that he would soon speak with Tung again and that Tung could arrange future meetings. In separate communications months later, Podesta referred to Tung as his “friend from Hong Kong.”

Podesta also held multiple calls with Tung in late 2015 and early 2016, including calls in July, August, September, January and March, according to further emails reviewed by Fox News Digital. Podesta served as the chair of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.


In addition, Podesta and Tung collaborated on research projects years earlier, including co-writing a 2013 paper about U.S.-China relations for the Center for American Progress, which Podesta founded in 2003. In May 2013, Tung and Podesta spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which included China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai.

John Podesta

Podesta listens as President Biden delivers remarks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Sept. 6, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

“For the last four years [the] Center for American Progress and China-U.S. Exchange Foundation have co-hosted a US.-China track II dialogue, and we continue to host these dialogues on an annual basis,” Podesta said during the event.

“I have the highest regard for C.H. Tung’s tireless efforts to bring our two nations closer together,” he said. “He is always looking ahead to anticipate emerging challenges in the U.S.-China relations and to figure out what he can do to make those challenges more manageable.”


Later during the event, Podesta introduced Tung and said he wanted those in attendance to thank Tung for his leadership. Tung later thanked Podesta for his “inspirational talk.”

US-China climate talks

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is greeted by top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi before a meeting in the Great Hall of the People on July 18, 2023, in Beijing, China. (Florence Lo-Pool/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, during his time as U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, Kerry has traveled around the world, attending global climate summits and diplomatic engagements in an effort to push an aggressive transition from fossil fuel power to green energy alternatives. As part of those efforts, Kerry has repeatedly negotiated with Chinese diplomats on climate policy.

However, while China has established a stranglehold on green energy supply chains, it has also expanded coal power to sustain its massive economy. In 2022, the nation permitted a whopping 106 gigawatts of new coal power capacity, roughly quadrupling the amount permitted in 2021, according to an analysis published by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and Global Energy Monitor.


According to the American Geosciences Institute, burning coal produces more carbon emissions compared to burning any other fossil fuel. Coal power can have as much as twice the carbon footprint as natural gas.

China already accounts for about 27% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Rhodium Group. The nation’s emissions output is equivalent to triple the total of the U.S., which is the world’s second-largest emitter.

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