PPT Seeks Information on Federal Employees’ Attendance at Overseas Climate Conference

Nine agencies sent personnel to conference while many federal employees continue pandemic-related telework

Today, federal watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with a number of agencies seeking documents related to planning and travel for federal employees to attend the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, UK. Media reports indicate the United States sent more than 160 delegates to the conference, which concluded this past weekend.

PPT submitted requests to the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, State, the Interior, and Transportation; the Environmental Protection Agency; NASA, and the United States Agency for International Development requesting documents around COP26 travel. In addition, PPT sent a FOIA request to the Department of Commerce regarding travel by the Administrator and other employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to COP26 as well as for Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and other Commerce employees to attend a related conference in London. Secretary Raimondo delivered an address (“The Road to COP26”) at the CS London Climate Change Business Forum 2021 in the weeks leading up to the Glasgow conference.

The watchdog is also seeking information regarding the telework status of federal employees who attended. The information sought would indicate whether those who traveled to Europe to attend the conference in-person were on a pandemic-related telework status during the month prior.

“It is incumbent upon those who serve in the federal government to be good stewards of the resources the American public provides to them, which includes avoiding extravagant or excessive travel,” said Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, Michael Chamberlain. “The American public would certainly question the advisability of sending employees to mingle in large groups at a conference while many are still working from home due to the pandemic. These agencies could definitely make tremendous steps forward in improving the public’s trust by providing transparency with the requested records.”

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