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Hill's mixed COP28 messages

Nov 21, 2023
Illustration of a donkey and an elephant each with a speech bubble.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The bipartisan group of lawmakers headed to COP28 in Dubai is set to send the world mixed messages about how the U.S. sees fossil fuels.

Why it matters: This year's conference, held in a petrostate and run by the head of an oil company, is giving the industry an unusual spotlight.

  • Democrats will continue their international IRA sales campaign, while Republicans — who want to repeal or neuter the landmark law — will likely seek to bolster the role of oil and gas in the energy transition.

Driving the news: House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers is leading an official bipartisan delegation with ranking member Frank Pallone.

  • That's a significant departure from recent years, when House Republicans have traveled to COP separately or in bipartisan groups on privately sponsored trips.
  • Senate Foreign Relations Chair Ben Cardin is also leading a bipartisan delegation that includes climate hawks like Ed Markey and moderates like Chris Coons and Lisa Murkowski.
  • Lawmakers will get limited time on the ground toward the end of the conference, but Dec. 10 will be a big day for them, per the State Department's schedule of events.
  • That morning, senators will discuss "congressional support for climate action." In the evening, members of the House delegation will join an event with the Conservative Climate Foundation, according to E&C spokesperson Sean Kelly.

Nick spoke to some of the lawmakers going to Dubai …

Rep. Jeff Duncan: "I've never been, so the first thing is education — seeing kind of how the other side approaches climate.

  • "I hope we take a Republican message that we like renewables, we're all the above. We also understand you need dispatchable energy to make it all work and also push natural gas.
  • "We've lowered our carbon emissions. It's 40% cleaner, U.S. natural gas."

Rep. John Curtis: "The message I'd like to bring is that Republicans care, that we have good ideas, and we want to be at the table.

  • "The Conservative Climate Foundation was planning on taking us, but we felt like we wanted to support the [bipartisan] trip."

Sen. Tom Carper: "It's important for folks around the world to know we're not just talking a good game about climate change and reducing emissions. We're doing stuff.… I'm a big believer in leadership by example.

  • "There's a fair amount of participation from the private sector at COP, so they've got to be a big part of the solution as well."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: "I'm going to go there and talk about how valuable the EU, and now possibly U.K., CBAM is and how our country needs to step up.

Of note: Cardin has put a focus on human rights since taking over the Foreign Relations Committee, so we expect him to highlight the issue at COP.

Our thought bubble: Despite the partisan divides over climate, don't underestimate the significance of a bipartisan House delegation.

  • "A bipartisan CODEL is an opportunity for members to share learning experiences and build the relationships and personal trust that enable policymaking," said Alex Flint, who leads the pro-carbon tax group Alliance For Market Solutions.
  • Plus, we could see some bipartisan discussion of fusion, which the Biden administration plans to spotlight this year.
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