The Energy 202: U.S. plans to ‘showcase ways to use fossil fuels’ at a U.N. climate conference

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2018

Participants work in a computer room Tuesday during the Climate Change Conference COP24 in Katowice, Poland. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

The world’s nations are gathering this week for the second time since President Trump took office to discuss how they will try to stop runaway climate change.

Despite a vow from Trump to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, the United States is again sending a delegation to the U.N. conference, which is being held in Poland.

But the Trump administration is not attending the two-week meeting without making its policy preferences known. The U.S. government is planning to hold a side event promoting fossil fuels as part of the solution to global warming.

The Trump administration plans to reinsert its voice at the climate conference in Katowice, in southern Poland’s coal country.

There the U.S. government will hold a panel titled “U.S. Innovative Technologies Spur Economic Dynamism.” The event is meant to “showcase ways to use fossil fuels as cleanly and efficiently as possible, as well as the use of emission-free nuclear energy,” the State Department said in a statement.

“These job-creating innovations have contributed to reducing U.S. emissions while also growing our economy and providing reliable and affordable access to energy,” the statement continued. “Fossil fuels will continue to be used across the globe for decades to come.”

Numerous analyses suggest capturing carbon for coal-fired power will be necessary to simultaneously meet energy needs and climate goals since renewable sources such as wind and solar power cannot ramp up fast enough.

“This is obviously not a popular message,” at the conference, former Trump White House energy policy adviser George David Banks said in an interview. Banks made the administration’s presentation in Germany last year.

Three months later, he resigned from his post after failing to receive a permanent security clearance because of past marijuana use.

“If the United States is not there at the COP making these points,” he added, “nobody else is going to do it.”

The promotion of fossil fuels comes as nearly 200 signatories to the Paris climate accord are gathering in Poland to discuss how they will carry out their commitments under the landmark agreement brokered by President Barack Obama in 2015.

Under that agreement, nations voluntarily set goals for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The idea is that although commitments are not legally binding, nations will feel enough pressure from their peers to take steps toward meeting the goals. One of the purposes of the meeting, known as COP24, is to write a rule book for tracking emissions.

At recent international conferences, the United States has largely chosen to sideline itself from climate discussions. Just last week at a Group of 20 meeting in Brazil, every world leader present except Trump reaffirmed their support for the Paris accord.

The planned event echoes one held last year at a U.N. climate conference in Germany at which representatives from the Trump administration and the U.S. coal-mining industry gave a pro-coal presentation.They argued that since coal and other fossil fuels will be used to power homes and businesses for the foreseeable future, their carbon emissions should be reduced as much as possible.

But advocating for coal at a climate conference was met with derision by environmental activists, who interrupted the talk for about about seven minute by singing a rendition of “God Bless the U.S.A.” with anti-coal lyrics. One Democratic politician in attendance, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, admonished the administration.

Environmental groups attending this year’s conference are girding themselves for another public showdown with the Trump administration.

“It is beyond absurd for the administration to sponsor an international event purporting to discuss ways to use fossil fuels as cleanly as possible” while attempting to cut Obama-era rules that try to make fossil-fuel use less polluting and more efficient, said Dan Lashof, the U.S. director of the World Resources Institute. Those include Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department regulations seeking to curb the leaking of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations.