PORTLAND, Ore. — As world leaders continue to meet at the U.N. COP 27 climate conference in Egypt, two members of Oregon’s congressional delegation, who recently returned from the meetings, said this meeting felt different than those they’d attended in the past.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who represents Oregon's 1st Congressional District, said that was largely because of developments at home. Provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill included historic investments aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Bonamici said that was a marked shift from the last conference she attended, soon after former President Donald Trump had announced he would be pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord.
"This the third COP I've been able to attend, and this one in Egypt was certainly the most promising or the most optimistic," she said, noting that leaders from other countries had taken note of recent efforts by the U.S. to curb emissions.
Much of the focus of this year’s conference has been on loss and damage caused by climate change, specifically in poorer countries, which are responsible for a tiny fraction of global carbon emissions.
Despite their tiny contribution to climate change, those countries have seen an outsized share of extreme weather events and other climate-fueled disasters.
"The United States has been the second-largest emitter in history and the countries that are bearing the brunt of this have really emitted very little carbon," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who represents Oregon’s 3rd District. "We cannot allow the poor countries to continue to pay the price for us."
Blumenauer pointed to changes in the way the U.S. doles out international aid and changes to policy at the International Monetary Fund as ways that richer countries could be providing more resources to our poorer neighbors.
He noted, however, that those kinds of help could hit resistance domestically, as the U.S. grapples with its own problems at home like inflation and the threat of an economic downturn.
Still, Blumenauer said it was important for the U.S. to provide help to other nations suffering the consequences of the country's previous greenhouse gas emissions, in part to help ensure global stability.
"It’s in our self-interest," he said. "If we don't help these countries reduce their carbon and deal with the very real loss and damage they’ve inflicted, it's going to unsettle global security and it's going to be harder for them to make progress."
Previous U.N. climate conferences have resulted in commitments from member countries, like the Paris Accord, and it remains to be seen exactly what kind of pledges will come from this year’s meeting. Blumenauer said one thing was abundantly clear from his time in Egypt, however.
"The rich countries are running out of excuses," he said. "Ultimately, we all have to make progress or we’re all going to cook."