Environmentalist protestors at COP23

Trump-backed delegation promotes fossil fuels at COP23

Image credit: REUTERS/Alister Doyle

As an official US delegation to the major climate change conference use the event to promote fossil fuels, an alternative coalition of US figures have loudly voiced their support for the Paris Agreement.

The 23rd annual conference of the parties (COP23) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is underway in Bonn, Germany. This year, the 200 countries gathered at the conference will discuss developing guidance for meeting climate mitigation targets in preparation for the finer details of the Paris Agreement to be hammered out at the next COP.

At COP23, Syria and Nicaragua became signatories to the Paris Agreement, which aims to avert the worst consequences of climate change by keeping global average temperature rises to below 2°C. This means that the US is now the only country to not be included in the agreement, following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in June 2017.

Many US figures, including non-federal representatives, have made their presence at COP23 known as they join with international efforts to lessen the impacts of climate change. Jerry Brown, Governor of California, who remains committed to climate mitigation in spite of Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, has been named a special adviser to the event.

Other major US figures resisting Trump’s rejection of the accord at COP23 include Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Governor of California.

This coalition of US figures supporting the Paris Agreement has organised a series of talks independently of federal government, and they have even set up their own headquarters at the event: the “We Are Still In” pavilion, which is thought to be the largest at the event.

Ricardo Lara, California State Senator, addressing an audience at the pavilion, reportedly offered greetings from “the official resistance to the Trump administration”, and said: “Let’s relish being rebels. Despite what happens in DC, we’re still here.”

The only Trump-backed US presentation at the event was led by a delegation mainly of fossil fuel exporters, who used COP23 as a platform to argue that coal could be used as part of the solution to tackling climate change.

The event, named “The Role of Cleaner and more Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation”, argued that universal access to energy – only possible with the use of fossil fuels – is essential for international development.

“The idea that the world can meet ambitious mitigation goals, support development in poor countries the way we should and ensure energy access by only developing solar and wind is naïve,” said George David Barks, a White House energy policy adviser, at the event. The panellists argued that coal would remain a valuable part of the energy mix and should be made as clean as possible.

This event was ridiculed by politicians and activists alike. As Banks and other panellists spoke, protestors – who arrived at the event with costumes and placards – began singing an anti-coal song to the tune of “God Bless the USA” which demanded that governments and energy giants “keep [coal] in the ground”.

The protestors were removed from the presentation and continued to chant outside, demanding “climate justice now”.

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