Gov. Jay Inslee’s trip to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow cost Washington taxpayers at least $66,000.
That total doesn’t include any overtime costs for the Washington State Patrol officers who provided security for the governor on the international trip.
The governor’s office and the Washington State Office of Financial Management previously disclosed records that showed those agencies spent at least $25,955.32 on the trip, including more than $12,510.08 for business class airfare for the governor and his wife, Trudi. 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.
Washington State Patrol’s Executive Services Section spent $39,852.84 to provide the governor with protection on the trip, according to documents obtained this week by The Center Square through the state’s open records law. Washington State Patrol officers spent $6,493 on airfare, almost half of the cost of the Inslees’ flights. All of the Washington State Patrol officers flew coach. Inslee and his wife booked Aer Lingus business class seats for the 7-hour flight from Chicago to Dublin and later flew coach to Glasgow. For the overnight Aer Lingus flight, the Inslees had access to “exclusive premium check-in areas,” “luxurious airport lounges,” “delicious in-flight cuisine,” and “cozy lie-flat beds,” according to the airline’s website.
Washington State Patrol records show the agency spent $9,702.81 to rent Mercedes Benz vehicles for six days in Scotland, including drivers and accommodations for those drivers, state records show. The agency spent another $2,610.45 to rent an Audi A4 wagon for 14 days. The car rental costs included a $95.53 ticket fee for improperly using a bus lane.
Washington State Patrol officers spent thousands more on hotel stays throughout the two-week trip, including $9,609 for 13 nights at a luxury 4-bedroom villa for three people. Garage parking, gas, and parking fees added to the cost of the trip, according to receipts obtained by The Center Square. And COVID-19 testing costs for Washington State Patrol officers added $745.12 to the tab for taxpayers.
Members of the Washington State Patrol’s Executive Services Section are armed while protecting the governor and other officials while abroad when possible, said Chris Loftis, communications director for the Washington State Patrol.
“Yes, whenever possible but it varies from country to country. Each has their own set of firearm regulations and some only recognize visiting federal authorities while others extend their recognition of law enforcement privilege to state agencies,” he said. “Suffice to say that our protective services professionals work with local hosts to make sure the governor is protected at all times with overlapping levels of security, armed and unarmed, seen and unseen.”
Inslee’s office has said the cost of the trip was worth it for Washington taxpayers.
“The trip to COP26 was well worth the costs paid by the governor’s office given the global leadership role Washington state government and industries play in solving climate change and creating jobs in the clean energy economy,” Mike Faulk, deputy communications director for Inslee’s office, previously said in a statement. “The governor led a coalition of nearly 70 subnational governments to accelerate climate action and continues to lead that coalition to ensure progress in mitigating the climate crisis.”
The governor’s office did not answer questions about why the Inslees chose to fly business class at taxpayer expense or if the governor would reimburse the state for those costs.
Inslee has made efforts to stem climate change a signature issue. He has proposed reducing Washington state’s emissions by modernizing building regulations for clean energy projects, making electric vehicles more affordable and decarbonizing homes and workplaces with the Climate Commitment Act.
All six governors who attended the climate conference are part of the U.S. Climate Alliance, which Inslee started with former California Gov. Jerry Brown and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2017 after former President Donald Trump changed U.S. climate goals. President Joe Biden reversed Trump’s changes.
During the climate conference in Glasgow, the U.S. Climate Alliance announced “the next generation of ‘High-Impact Actions’ its states will pursue to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” according to a news release from the group.
“The U.S. Climate Alliance’s states are leading the world in the development and execution of new, innovative, and effective climate policies and actions, and today, we continue to press forward,” U.S. Climate Alliance Acting Executive Director and Policy Director Taryn Finnessey said in a statement. “The climate threat knows no borders and when we share solutions and expertise – not just with one another in the Alliance, but also with other like-minded subnational leaders around the world – we can truly turn the tide.”
Climate activist Greta Thunberg called the climate summit a failure.
“It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place,” she said during a speech about two miles away from the conference center. “The COP has turned into a PR event, where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets, while behind the curtains governments of the Global North countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action.”
This article was originally posted on Washington taxpayer bill grows to $66,000 for U.N. climate conference trip