Opinion: Governor Inslee’s flight to Scotland could have eliminated a year of CO2 for his entire staff

Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center points out the apparent difference between Governor Inslee’s words and his actions.

Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center points out the apparent difference between the governor’s words and his actions

Todd Myers
Washington Policy Center

For just the cost of flying himself and his wife to Scotland in business class, Governor Inslee could have eliminated the CO2 emissions from his entire staff for more than one year. If you include the cost of support staff and security, he could have eliminated all staff CO2 emissions for almost all of his first two terms in office.

According to The Center Square, the Washington State Office of Financial Management disclosed that taxpayers paid $12,510.08 to fly the Governor and his wife to Scotland for a climate conference. They note that “Five other U.S. state governors attended the conference. Inslee and his wife were the only ones who bought premium airline seats at taxpayer expense.”

Using per capita emissions estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the 79 staff in the governor’s office emit about 877 metric tons (MT) of CO2 annually. Projects available on the market can reduce emissions for $10/MT. That $12,510 could reduce 1,251 MT or nearly a year-and-a-half of emissions from the entire staff.

The total cost of the trip, including security and support staff, is estimated to be over $66,000. For that amount, the governor could have eliminated 7 and a half years’ worth of emissions from his staff or virtually all of his first two terms.

According to the governor’s spokesman, The Climate Registry, a nonprofit organization, “offset the carbon impacts of the governor’s trip and the rest of their delegation.” The governor’s office recognizes projects that reduce CO2 emissions (sometimes called “offsets”) are valid, citing them to justify flying to Scotland. The projects, however, are used only to offset what are probably a few dozen tons of CO2 from staff flights rather than maximizing the reductions to address the “climate crisis.”

Ironically, the recently passed CO2 cap-and-trade system signed by Governor Inslee strictly limits and then prohibits the use of the exact type of carbon offsets cited by his staff to meet the law’s requirements. The law limits offsets to only five percent of total emissions reductions during the first four years of the law and only four percent in the second four years, before eliminating offsets entirely. It also requires offset projects to be in Washington state. It is unclear what projects were used to offset the governor’s flight, but it is unlikely they were from Washington state.

Once again, this is typical of the pattern of Washington’s climate spending, emphasizing public relations value over environmental effectiveness and applying rules to others that politicians don’t follow themselves.

Todd Myers is the director of the Center for the Environment at the Washington Policy Center.

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