U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), sent letters to several members of President Biden’s cabinet and agency leadership demanding answers on the administration’s attendance of the Glasgow U.N. climate summit. Specifically, Barrasso asked how many staff are attending the conference, the total cost to taxpayers, and the carbon footprint of their travel. 

Barrasso sent the letters to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Rick Spinrad. 

Read the text of the letter to Secretary Granholm below.  

Dear Secretary Granholm, 

I am writing to obtain answers regarding the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) decision to send employees to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.  

According to Time magazine, COP26 will be the “most expensive COP on record.” In an effort to understand the full cost the taxpayers will bear for this two week international conference, I ask that you answer the attached questions. 

In addition to the staggering cost of the conference, I am concerned that what appears to be a bloated US delegation will prove counterproductive to the COP’s mission. The conference is intended to “accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.” However, these commitments strike a tone of insincerity as a majority of COP26 delegates will have contributed a significant amount of carbon emissions to attend COP26. 

Originally scheduled to take place in late 2020, COP26 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People all over the world made the transition to teleconferencing as a means of maintaining communication with friends and coworkers, and even attending conferences. For many individuals, this new method of interaction is here to stay. It is rather perplexing that in this new age of digital communication and during an ongoing pandemic, executive branch departments and agencies are unnecessarily choosing to contribute directly to carbon emissions and risk exposure to COVID-19. 

As you know, this expenditure of millions of dollars in travel and accommodations for executive branch employees comes directly at the expense of taxpayers. DOE’s decision to attend COP26 comes as many executive branch employees have been forced to work from home for more than a year and a half. If they cannot go to work here in the U.S., they should not be permitted to attend extravagant conferences across the globe.  

In an effort to understand DOE’s current position on COP26 attendance, I ask that you answer the following questions no later than November 15, 2021. 

Questions: 

1.         How many individuals from DOE are attending COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland?

a.         Please provide a complete and full list of those attending. 

2.         How much money has DOE spent in order to send employees to COP26 including expenditures for travel, lodging, food and beverages, emission offset measures, and lost work productivity? 

3.         Of DOE officials attending, which attendees have worked from home more than 50 percent of their total hours worked since March 2020? 

4.         What is DOE’s total carbon footprint (CO2e) as a result of COP26 travel?

5.         Has DOE made any effort to offset its carbon emissions resulting from its COP26 travel? If so, what is the total cost of these offset measures?

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