'Tobacco at a cancer summit': Trump coal push savaged at climate conference

The US administration’s attempt to portray fossil fuels as vital to reducing poverty and saving US jobs is ridiculed in Bonn

The US administration’s attempt to portray fossil fuels as vital to reducing poverty and saving US jobs is ridiculed in Bonn

Other attendees at the summit condemned the argument.

“Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit,” said Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and a UN special envoy for cities and climate change.

Benson Kibiti, from the Kenya Climate Working Group, said: “More coal will entrench poverty.”

When questioned, just one of the four energy executives Trump’s team chose to speak at the event expressed support for his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement.

At the only official event put on by the US government at the two-week summit, Banks said: “Without a question, fossil fuels will continue to be used and we would argue that it is in the global interest that when it is used it is is clean and efficient as possible.”

“This panel is only controversial if we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the realities of the global energy system,” he added.

The event was interrupted when about three-quarters of the 200-strong audience stood up and began singing in protest.

The protesters then left, but the panel was heckled, with angry members of the audience shouting “bunch of liars” and “clean coal is bullshit”.

Peabody’s Holly Krutka challenged the argument that coal has no future role. “The discussion needs to be not if we use coal but how,” she said.

She also cited carbon capture and storage technology as vital in cutting fossil fuel emissions. Such technology includes the Petra Nova CCS project in the US, which captures CO2 and then uses it to flush more oil out of reservoirs. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that tackling global warming without CCS will be much more expensive.

Kibiti said: “More coal is not going to end the problem of people living without electricity. The vast majority – 84% – of electricity-poor households globally are in rural areas, so off-grid solutions powered by renewables like solar, wind and small hydro are going to be the cheapest and quickest.”

Two dozen of the 196 countries backing the Paris agreement have included efficient coal technology in their national contributions to cutting emissions. But predictions for future coal use have the plummeted in recent years as the cost of renewable energy has dropped. In 2013, the International Energy Agency expected coal-burning to grow by 40% by 2040; today it anticipates just 1% growth, while China and India have recently cancelled plans for hundreds of new coal plants.

Andrew Steer, CEO of the World Resources Institute, said the US event was irrelevant: “It is a total distraction. It will not change the overwhelming momentum away from coal. The closing of coal plants in the US has accelerated since Trump was elected. It’s King Canute trying to hold back the tide.”

Earlier on Monday in Bonn, the US’s neighbours Canada and Mexico further isolated Washington by announcing a new partnership with the 15 US states that have pledged strong climate action. Canada’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, and her Mexican counterpart, Rodolfo Lacy, joined with the governors of Washington state and California, Jay Inslee and Jerry Brown, to form a group that will focus on phasing out coal power and boosting clean power and transport.

“We are all in this together,” said McKenna. “The countries that move forward and realise there is a $30tn opportunity will be creating clean jobs and growing their economy.”

Inslee added: “Trump is a blip in history. Not one country has expressed that there is any doubt [about climate action] just because Trump is still a climate denier. He can tweet his fingers off, but he won’t stop us. If you want to grow your economy, focus on the jobs of the future.”

 

November 14, 2017

Sources:` NBC ; The Guardian

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