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Poland Literally Filled an International Climate Change Conference With Coal

Piles of coal at climate talks in Poland.
Photo: Lauren Wolahan

International climate talks are off to an inauspicious start in Poland.

They began on Sunday in Katowice, a small city in the heart of Polish coal country, and are already a strong contender for the most tone-deaf meeting in 24 iterations of the UN climate change conference known as the conference of the parties (COP). After picking coal companies to sponsor thetalks, the Polish government decided to deck the halls of its exhibition center with piles of coal in a move that is beyond parody.

Confounded conference goers have been tweeting images and videos of the coal display as well as coal-related tchotchkes, including coal soap (it’s clean coal, get it?). A coal miner band greeted attendees after they walked in from air thick with coal-fire power plant haze. And in his opening remarks, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that coal “does not contradict the protection of the climate and the progress of climate protection.”

Look, I get it. Poland mines a lot of coal. It gets 78 percent of its power from coal. It has a vested interest in keeping coal alive from an economic and political standpoint, and this conference gives the government a chance to lay that vision out.