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Winning! At U.N. climate talks, Trump team plans sideshow on coal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration plans to set up a side-event promoting fossil fuels at the annual U.N. climate talks next month, repeating a strategy that infuriated global-warming activists during last year’s talks, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump refers to amounts of temperature change as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

As with the 2017 gathering in Bonn, Germany, the administration plans to highlight the benefits of technologies that more efficiently burn fuels including coal, the sources said.

This year’s talks in Katowice, Poland – located in a mining region that is among the most polluted in Europe – are intended to hammer out a rule book to the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, which set a sweeping goal of ending the fossil-fuel era this century by spurring a trillion-dollar transition to cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind power.

Even as the Trump administration aims to promote energy strategies that could detract from those international goals, it also plans to let State Department officials continue negotiating the climate accord – a recognition that the next U.S. president may drop the nation’s opposition to the pact.

“The White House seems to have taken the view that it’s important to let technocrats complete the work of the rule book. It’s in the U.S. national interest to be at the table and see an outcome that emphasizes transparency, holds countries accountable,” said one of the sources, who is familiar with State Department plans.

The White House and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment.

The United States, the world’s top oil and gas producer, is the only country to have announced its intention to formally withdraw from the Paris accord.

The administration’s resistance has come against a backdrop of increasingly urgent warnings from scientists about the threats posed by greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The panel will come less than two months after the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a report that the world’s use of coal for generating power will need to be nearly eliminated by mid-century – to between 1 and 7 percent of the global mix, from around 40 percent now – to help prevent deadly droughts, storms and floods brought on by climate change.

“Quite frankly, the U.S. is the only party to the convention that appears to be willing to push a rational discussion on the role of cleaner, more efficient fossil (fuels) and the role of civilian nuclear energy,” said one of the sources, who is involved in the planning of the event for Katowice, likely to be held on Dec. 10.

The source, who did not want to be named due to the sensitive nature of the issue, said the event will be dominated by proponents of coal and natural gas and likely advanced nuclear power, too. The panel will also likely feature a U.S. Energy Department representative. At this point plans do not include a renewable power industry representative, the source said.

The event is expected to be led by Wells Griffith, Trump’s international energy and climate adviser, the sources added. Griffith’s main energy policy experience involves a year at a political job at the Department of Energy and helping to set up a deal last year to supply Ukraine with U.S. coal after the country lost control of mines to Russian-backed separatists.


Trump last year announced his intent to leave the Paris agreement, calling it harmful to the U.S. economy and casting doubt on the climate science underpinning the accord.