State Department didn’t report emissions from climate trips required under executive order: report

The State Department failed to report greenhouse gas emissions from federal officials’ trips to United Nations climate conferences in 2021 and 2022, despite new requirements put in place by the Biden administration, according to a government watchdog.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released on Thursday found that more than 190 U.S. delegates traveled to the COP26 climate summit in 2021 and more than 250 traveled to COP27 in 2022.

An executive order signed by President Biden in December 2021 called for federal agencies to track and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions they produce from aviation travel and other sources.

However, the State Department “did not have a systematic way” to calculate emissions from U.S. delegation’s travel to the climate conferences over the last two years, according to the report.

The department said its difficulties in calculating emissions stem from the fact that each member of the U.S. delegation “makes their own travel arrangements using the travel management systems of their agency.” They also pointed to a lack of access to information about officials who traveled on Air Force One. 

However, the agency told GAO that it is “developing methods to estimate future travel emissions.”

The report emphasized that the “first step” toward meeting the U.S.’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is “understanding” those emissions from air travel, including from the U.S. delegation to the climate summits.

“State would be better positioned to evaluate progress toward its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals under these executive orders if it consistently estimated emissions from aviation travel,” it added.

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