Trump Delegation Went To a Climate Conference To Promote Coal. People Laughed In Their Faces
A bizarre and symbolic scene unfolded at the UN COP24 climate talks at a spaceship-shaped conference center in Polish coal country when the American delegation showed up to promote coal.
The nations of the world are meeting here to hash out a “rulebook” to help ensure the viability of humanity — preventing runaway global warming from causing even greater calamity in the form of superstorms, searing droughts and deadly heat waves.
That work, which follows up on the 2015 Paris Agreement, is seen as more critical now than ever. A damning report from the United Nations this fall said there’s only about a decade left to avoid the worst of climate change. The message: cut fossil fuel pollution to “net zero” in just a few decades.
Yet President Donald Trump’s delegation held a discussion on Monday that was meant, among other things, to promote coal “showcasing ways to use fossil fuels as cleanly and efficiently as possible.”
Vic Barrett, a 19-year-old college student in Wisconsin, was among those who decided that was too much to take. She and dozens of other protestors erupted in mock laughter, according to CNN.
The students temporarily stopped the US-led discussion, shouting, “shame on you!” and “keep it in the ground!” — a reference to fossil fuels that they say should be left unearthed.
“It’s so ridiculous. It’s a joke,” Barrett said of US energy policy. “We’re done listening to false solutions, like the promotion of coal, and things we know don’t work.”
A US State Department spokesperson said the event was intended to show “the remarkable progress we have made through innovation for cleaner technologies.”
“These job-creating innovations have contributed to reducing U.S. emissions while also growing our economy and providing reliable and affordable access to energy,” a State Department statement said.
Griffith stood quietly behind a lectern during Monday’s demonstration. “All too often, we can’t have an open and honest discussion about the realities,” he said after what he termed a “disturbance” had finished.
“All energy sources are important, and they will be utilized unapologetically,” he said. “The important piece is to utilize them in the most cleanly and efficient way, and that’s something I think all countries are committed to.”
Since the Industrial Revolution, the United States has done more to cause climate change than any other nation, according to the World Resources Institute.
In 2015, the US and China emerged as global leaders in the fight against climate change, orchestrating a deal aimed at limiting warming to at most 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. But since President Donald Trump took office, the picture has been far different.
Trump has promised to withdraw the United States from the Paris accord and has sought to expand production of coal, using that talking point to Republican voters.
Climate activists and policy experts say Americans have been trying to throw a wrench in the process here in Poland, which is meant to take the lofty goals of Paris and ensure that they actually become reality.
The US promotion of fossil fuel interests makes COP24 feel more like a “trade show” than a climate negotiation, said Jesse Bragg, spokesman for the nonprofit group Corporate Accountability. “It feels like the US saying the rest of the world, ‘We’ve got coal and coal technology; come buy it from us,’ ” he said. “They’re not here to negotiate a treaty. They’re here to sell fossil fuels.”
It’s not just the US fossil fuels “sideshow,” which is an attempt to prop up an industry that is failing regardless of Trump’s policies, said Jake Schmidt, managing director for international programs at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council. Over the weekend, the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait stood in the way of a statement to “welcome” the dire assessment of climate science from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.