COP26 – the 26th annual United Nations climate conference – is currently underway in Glasgow, Scotland. This weekend, I am attending as part of a bipartisan delegation from Congress.
I’m participating as Alaskan, senior senator from a warming state and one of the few Republicans. I am here because I recognize that climate change is real, we must act and we must work together – on both sides of the world – to find reasonable ways to reduce emissions without harming our economy.
Alaskans know climate change all too well because we can see and feel the impacts around us. Fishermen have watched the stocks their families fished for decades decline in overall abundance and average size, or move away from traditional bottoms in search of cooler waters. In many rural communities, river and coastal erosion and thawing permafrost threaten schools, homes and critical infrastructure. Around the state, receding sea ice and changing wildlife migration patterns have disrupted the ability of Alaska Natives to harvest for their livelihoods.
As Alaska feels the effects of climate change, it’s important to have the right policy response. More than most states, we risk being harmed if efforts to reshape the global energy system are ill-conceived. Our economy, which depends on jobs and income from the oil industry, cannot and should not be rebuilt overnight. Our communities, which already face very high energy costs, must be considered in the major decisions that determine the availability and cost of critical resources.
In light of this, my involvement at COP26 is both as an observer and as a defender of our state.
The COP negotiations will provide first-hand insight into what the Biden administration is committing to at home and abroad. I will carefully review any commitments made by the United States to ensure that they reflect our interests. For example, are threatened communities in Alaska taken care of before we engage in international aid for the same purpose? I will also review the commitments and strategies of other countries, especially those of large emitters like China.
At the same time, I will brief the delegates on Alaska. We know how and why our state is different from the rest of the country and the world. Those who are not from here, on the other hand, are not as familiar with our economy, our rich Indigenous history and traditions, our dependence on the ocean for food and jobs, and the care of the land. Earth.
Being in Glasgow allows me to share our story with political leaders and global companies. It also allows me to underline our commitment to innovation, to which Alaskans make a daily commitment to proactively reduce our emissions. Communities like Cordova are already at the forefront of micro-grid solutions using renewable energy and battery storage, and we hope to build on that for other communities in Alaska through the provisions of our bipartisan bill. on infrastructure.
To be clear, I’m not going to Glasgow to endorse the United Nations process or any of its products. Nor will I be defending President Joe Biden’s agenda. I do not support the way he pursued his climate priorities through unilateral executive actions, regulations, and a partisan budget reconciliation process in Congress. I particularly object to the way his administration targets Alaska for the purpose of limiting the development of domestic resources – by imposing supply-side restrictions that inflict real and unnecessary damage, while encouraging others. countries to increase their production.
I may be one of the few Republicans to attend this conference, and my decision to attend may surprise some. Ultimately, though, I think it’s better to be present and engaged – even with those I may fundamentally disagree with – than not. Climate change is an issue where greater involvement of Republicans will be a good thing, starting in Glasgow and expanding into the domestic policy debates that follow.
One final thought: I didn’t need to attend COP26 to realize that the world is well beyond the stage of deciding whether or not to act on climate change. Now it’s a question of what most countries will do, how they will do it, and in our case, how Alaska can take the lead. Overall, for the good of our people, our economy and the environment, it will be much better for our state to have a seat at the table.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, is the first US Senator from Alaska.
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