The Trump envoy to the UN’s climate change summit in Bonn on Monday was met with incredulity and a protest song, as officials argued that fossil fuels are essential to abating global poverty and saving jobs in the US.
While Donald Trump’s special adviser on energy and environment, David Banks, said cutting emissions was a US priority, “energy security, economic prosperity are higher priorities”, he said. “The president has a responsibility to protect jobs and industry across the country.”
Those in attendance were quick to denounce 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.”
The event was interrupted when over half the audience broke out into song.
To the tune of God Bless the USA, the mostly young protesters sang: “So you claim to be an American, but we see right through your greed, it’s killing right across the world, for all that coal money.”
Perhaps one of the most controversial moments came when an executive from Peabody Energy, the largest coal miner in the U.S. (which has funded at least two dozen groups challenging man-made climate change), took the floor.
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.
In spite of their best efforts, representatives of the Trump administration were shot down by virtually all in attendance, with the consensus being summed up well by Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, who advises some of the least developed countries:
“Any country or company continuing to champion coal and even other fossil fuels from now on would be wilfully carrying out a crime against humanity.”