The Biden administration is facing heavy criticism from a Senate Republican leader for sending dozens of representatives, including Vice President Kamala Harris and multiple Cabinet members, to the United Nations climate summit.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's ranking member, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., sent a flurry of letters to members of President Biden's Cabinet on Monday, demanding they justify trips to the U.N.'s COP28 summit in Dubai, which began last week and is set to conclude on Dec. 12. Barrasso questioned why officials couldn't attend the event via available virtual means.
"A significant number of Biden bureaucrats will be traveling across the globe on the taxpayer's dime, all in an effort to advocate for these anti-fossil fuel initiatives," Barrasso wrote in the letters. "They will, of course, utilize fossil fuels throughout their travels while ballooning their own carbon footprint."
"Even though COP28 has established a dedicated virtual platform to foster online participation, federal climate crusaders will gleefully spend the hard-earned money of the American people on airfare, hotels, and fine dining as they participate in person," he continued.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were among those whom Barrasso sent letters to Monday.
The U.S. delegation at the annual climate conference is being led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and includes Harris, Blinken, Vilsack, White House clean energy czar John Podesta, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and several other senior administration officials.
"Taxpayers will not and should not stand for this hypocrisy. This pattern of behavior suggests a troubling disconnect between public duty and the prudent use of taxpayer funds," Barrasso's letters to the Cabinet secretaries concluded.
"As stewards of public funds, it is imperative that federal agencies demonstrate consistency in their actions and policies, especially in matters related to environmental responsibility and fiscal accountability."
He then listed a series of questions for each agency head, asking how many officials they are sending to COP28, the estimated taxpayer costs of those travels, the projected carbon emissions from those travels and whether there was any effort to reduce the carbon footprint of COP28 travel.
Meanwhile, since the conference started, the U.S. delegation has been busy committing to various initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight global warming, but which experts have warned may lead to higher consumer costs. For example, the U.S. finalized regulations targeting methane emissions of the oil and gas sector and vowed to shutter all remaining coal-fired power plants.
"It’s safe to say that there literally will be hundreds of initiatives that will be announced, many of them coming from the United States, but also many coming from other parts of the world, and I think it’s going to be a very exciting presentation of a global effort that is taking place, even though it’s not happening fast enough or big enough yet," Kerry told reporters Wednesday.
"What is very clear to us – and we will be pushing this the next two weeks that we are here negotiating – we have to move faster," Kerry added. "We have to be much more seized of this issue all around the planet. There’s too much business as usual still."
The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.