President Biden’s ambition to phase out fossil fuels is at odds with his human-rights objectives in China. Last month the U.S. started enforcing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, “ensuring goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China do not enter the United States market.” Mr. Biden advocated intensely for this legislation and signed it in December.
But the administration is no less committed to using solar energy, batteries and electric vehicles to meet its commitments under the Glasgow Climate Pact. The technologies that underpin these climate-change commitments depend on Chinese forced and child labor.
The lithium-based battery is the only currently available technology that permits the early electrification of transportation at scale. China has vertically integrated its supply chain to produce this product. China has acquired mining properties throughout the world to produce lithium, which it processes to manufacture batteries.
China also became the dominant producer of cobalt after its acquisition of mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which produces 60% of the world’s supply. Cobalt is a critical material for lithium battery anodes, and Congo’s cobalt mining industry is notorious for the use of child labor.