Republicans bash Biden methane rule, COP28 funding promise

By Emma Dumain | 12/04/2023 06:31 AM EST

Republicans are taking aim at U.S. climate initiatives as many prepare to attend the U.N. climate summit in the coming days.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.).

Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), a senior appropriator, is taking issue with the administration's promise to pay into the Green Climate Fund. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Congressional Republicans are railing against President Joe Biden’s environmental agenda as lawmakers from both parties prepare to join world leaders later this week at the annual U.N. climate summit in the United Arab Emirates.

GOP lawmakers rolled out statements and warning shots over the weekend around EPA’s new methane rule and Vice President Kamala Harris’ commitment to a multibillion-dollar infusion into the Green Climate Fund.

“The Biden administration has piled on another massive regulatory burden designed to encumber and even shut down American energy production,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) following the announcement of EPA’s final rulemaking to dramatically curb emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.


“There’s never a good time for a terrible rule,” Cramer said, “but this seems like a crude joke in the wake of heightened geopolitical tensions and global oil instability.”

The highly anticipated puts more of the burden on individual companies to control methane emissions, including by requiring producers to upgrade equipment and to actually search for existing leaks rather than relying on preexisting estimates.

Separately, at the U.N. summit this weekend, 50 oil and gas companies pledged to eliminate methane emissions almost entirely by 2030, though environmental groups have doubts about enforcement.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) put the Biden administration on notice that Harris’ promise at COP28 to send $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund — which aims to help countries adapt to climate change and reduce emissions — is dead on arrival on Capitol Hill.

“I am appalled that the Biden administration will pledge billions more of taxpayer dollars, money that Congress has not even provided, to yet another bloated, mismanaged and ineffective slush fund that will do nothing to change the temperature of the planet,” said Díaz-Balart, the chair of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over international climate spending.

“Given our national debt of more than $33.8 trillion, in addition to the numerous pressing and grave foreign policy challenges that we are facing, there simply is no justification for spending billions more on a failing, inflated and economically harmful climate change agenda led by clueless bureaucrats at the United Nations,” Díaz-Balart continued.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at COP28.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks Saturday at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. | Kamran Jebreili/AP

The GOP criticism is not surprising. It could, however, further heighten existing tensions among members of a House delegation planning to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, at the week’s end, when a small number of Democrats are expected to participate alongside perhaps three times as many Republicans.

The delegation, co-led by House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), will mark the first time the number of Republicans will outnumber Democrats at a COP gathering.

Democrats are suspicious that Republicans are heading to COP to undermine the negotiations rather than support global emissions reduction goals.

Republicans have made no secret of the fact they’re interested in going to COP with the primary purpose of celebrating U.S. energy dominance and leadership — an objective Democrats consider counterproductive to the summit’s entire mission.

“It’s a really long flight to be on the periphery of a meeting,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), regarding the House Republicans. “It’d be like if I showed up at the Koch brothers confab and held a sign. No one’s going to pay attention.”

Schatz is attending COP with a delegation of senators. All are expected to be Democrats, with the exception of Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Glimpses of bipartisanship

The Republican-led Energy and Commerce Committee this week will also hold its second hearing in two weeks to preview its message at COP, further cementing the party’s position going into the high-stakes gathering.

The first hearing, convened last week by the Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Minerals, was titled, “America Leads the Way: Our History as the Global Leader in Reducing Emissions.”

The second hearing, to be led Tuesday by the Energy, Climate and Grid Security Subcommittee, has been dubbed, “America’s Future: Leading a New Era of Energy Dominance, Security and Environmental Stewardship.”

It’s not clear how the two hearings will be demonstrably different from each other, or if there’s any chance the two parties will be able to break through their political and ideological differences ahead of the delegation’s departure a few days later.

Pallone, despite his overall skepticism about the GOP’s ambitions for the climate summit, conceded after last week’s hearing that at least Republicans were “[acknowledging] the importance of reducing emissions.”

He explained that “they were saying the U.S. is doing more to reduce emissions than any other country … it shows, at least, they think we should reduce emissions. So maybe, in an optimistic way, we can make them agree to further emissions reductions on a bipartisan basis.”

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah).
Utah Rep. John Curtis is among the Republicans attending the COP28 climate meeting. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), the chair of the Conservative Climate Caucus and a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, likewise attempted to focus on where the two parties could find common ground rather than where they split sharply apart on climate policy.

At one point during last week’s hearing, Curtis said he heard Democrats and Republicans in agreement on three principles: “affordability matters … reliability matters … clean matters.”

Curtis himself plans at COP to work across the aisle with his frequent legislative collaborator, Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), to pitch the international community on legislation that would require the Energy Department to study the carbon intensity of certain industrial goods.

The “Providing Reliable, Objective, Verifiable Emissions Intensity and Transparency (PROVE IT) Act,” S. 1863, which has already been introduced in the Senate by Cramer and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), is being touted as a precursor to a carbon border adjustment mechanism, or CBAM, which would impose tariffs on carbon-intensive goods.

Curtis and Peters have said they will soon introduce a companion to the “PROVE IT Act” in the House, with some changes to the Senate product, though they have not yet clarified what changes they’re looking at and when to expect formal introduction.

The bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus will also be attending COP with the goal of bridging partisan divides around how to thwart the worst effects of global warming.

Just as the group is evenly split on Capitol Hill, the COP delegation will be equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, too, confirmed co-Chair Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.).

The caucus’s plan, said Garbarino, is to tour energy facilities and meet with foreign leaders and industry representatives “to see what they’re doing, what’s working, what’s not working” in the realm of climate action.

“It’s a really good place to learn,” he said.

Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 10 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn and via webcast.

Witnesses: TBA.