Protesters at the UN climate talks in Poland disrupt a U.S. panel on coal power with chants of ‘Keep it in the ground’ and ‘Shame on you’, 10 December 2018. Photo: Lukasz Kalinowski / REX / Shutterstock

By Jonathan Watts
10 December 2018

Katowice, Poland (The Guardian) – A Trump administration presentation extolling the virtues of fossil fuels at the UN climate talks in Poland has been met with guffaws of laughter and chants of “Shame on you”.

Monday’s protest came during a panel discussion by the official US delegation, which used its only public appearance to promote the “unapologetic utilisation” of coal, oil and gas. Although these industries are the main source of the carbon emissions that are causing global warming, the speakers boasted the US would expand production for the sake of global energy security and planned a new fleet of coal plants with technology it hoped to export to other countries.

The event featured prominent cheerleaders for fossil fuels and nuclear power, including Wells Griffith, Donald Trump’s adviser on global energy and climate, Steve Winberg, the assistant secretary for fossil energy at the energy department, and Rich Powell, the executive director of the ClearPath Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on “conservative clean energy”. The only non-American was Patrick Suckling, the ambassador for the environment in Australia’s coal-enthusiast government.

None of the US participants mentioned climate change or global warming, focusing instead of “innovation and entrepreneurship” in the technological development of nuclear power, “clean coal” and carbon capture and storage.

Ten minutes into Griffith’s opening speech, he was interrupted by a sudden, sustained, loud volley of laughter by several dozen protesters that was then followed by a single shout of “It’s not funny”, and then a series of chants of “Keep it in the ground” and “Shame on you”.

Several campaigners read statements. “There is no such thing as clean coal. Coal is deadly from the beginning to the end. They talk about the life cycle of coal, I talk about it as a death march. My father died of black lung, and I am in this struggle with others whose fathers and husbands are dying of black lung right now,” said Teri Blanton of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, which represents Appalachian coal workers in North America.

After the protesters were led away by security guards, Griffiths said: “In the US our policy is not to keep it in the ground, but to use it as cleanly and efficiently as possible”.

This statement was contradicted by climate analysts, who noted the US environment agency estimates that 1,400 more deaths per year will result from Trump’s proposal to replace the Clean Power Act.

“It’s ludicrous for Trump officials to claim that they want to clean up fossil fuels, while dismantling standards that would do just that,” said Dan Lashof, the director of the World Resources Institute. “Since taking office, this administration has proposed to roll back measures to cut methane leaks from oil and gas operations, made it easier for companies to dump coal ash into drinking water, and just days ago proposed easing carbon pollution rules for new coal-fired power plants.” […]

This was the second consecutive year that the Trump team was heckled after promoting fossil fuels and nuclear power at the climate talks, underscoring how the US position has shifted since the president took power in 2017. [more]

Protesters disrupt US panel's fossil fuels pitch at climate talks

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