Gov. Chris Gregoire will head to Denmark late next week to attend a United Nations conference about global climate change.
The overseas jaunt raised questions this week from Republicans and others skeptical about global warming – especially at a time when the state is in a budget crisis.
Gregoire’s chief of staff, Jay Manning, said the trip is key to the state’s economic recovery. He said it’s important to be at an international gathering where “green energy” companies are present.
“There are a number of Washington businesses that will be there and a number of businesses we want to become Washington businesses,” he said in an interview.
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The trip is sponsored by the Georgetown Climate Center, which operates out of the Georgetown University law school and came into being a few years ago at the behest of activist states such as California and Washington, Manning said. The center and a nonprofit Chicago group, The Climate Registry, are splitting the expenses for Gregoire and two staff members, Janice Adair of the Department of Ecology and Keith Phillips of the governor’s Office of Financial Management, Manning said.
The conference in Copenhagen runs Tuesday through Dec. 18, and Gregoire is scheduled to speak Dec. 15 as part of a panel. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin and Premiers Gordon Campbell of British Columbia, Jean Charest of Quebec and Greg Selinger of Manitoba are the other panelists.
“It is really important, we believe, for states that have been leaders for climate action in our country to convey their story to the international audience and try to get international action,” the center’s executive director, Vicki Arroyo, said in a voice message responding to questions from The Olympian.
The trip is one reason Gregoire is putting out her all-cuts budget proposal on Wednesday next week instead of closer to Christmas Day. The state faces a budget shortfall of about $2.6 billion that will require deep cuts to many programs.
House Republican Deputy Leader Joel Kretz of Wauconda said the state has a budget crisis, and Gregoire’s proposed spending cuts likely will raise questions the governor should be in town to answer.
“The thing that seems ironic to me is in this state 55,000 people are unemployed and they are going to a conference that deals with concepts that are going to be job killers,” Kretz said, referring to cap-and-trade proposals for limiting carbon emissions into the atmosphere. “The governor’s attention should be here and not in Denmark.”
Kretz said he has “huge questions” about the validity of research linking human activity to climate change, and he suggested there has been recent information to cast doubt on claims that the scientific debate is settled.
Leading up to the trip, Gregoire is scheduled to meet today in Seattle with federal Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a forum about the clean-energy economy. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski also will attend.
Gregoire will put out her budget Wednesday, then will leave Dec. 11 for Copenhagen; she is scheduled to be back Dec. 17.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688