November 13, 2017 / 7:04 PM / 6 days ago

Protesters disrupt U.S. pro-coal event at U.N. climate talks

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - Protesters disrupted a pro-coal presentation by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration at climate change talks in Germany on Monday where almost 200 nations are trying to shift the world economy off fossil fuels.

Protesters interrupt a U.S. government pro-coal event during the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference 2017, hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, Germany, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Alister Doyle

The U.S.-sponsored event about “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation” jarred with many other nations, which want negotiations on the 2015 Paris Agreement to focus on renewable energies.

“So you claim to be an American, but we see right through your greed,” dozens of protesters suddenly chanted at a meeting of U.S. officials and fossil fuel and nuclear experts to the tune of “God Bless the USA”.

They said the United States should keep coal “in the ground” and then walked out, leaving the 220-seat meeting room half-empty.

George David Banks, a special assistant to Trump on energy and the environment, said the panel was “only controversial if we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the needs of the global energy system”.

Trump, who doubts that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver of rising temperatures, said in June that he plans to pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement and instead promote jobs in the fossil fuel industry.

No country has followed his lead.

Coal now supplies a third of all energy used worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency, with big shares in China and India.

Former California governor and 'Mr. Universe' Arnold Schwarzenegger attends the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference 2017, hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, Germany, November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

“The question needs not to be ‘if’ we use coal but ‘how’,” said Holly Krutka of Peabody Energy, one of the panellists. “Fossil fuels are part of the energy mix for decades to come”

“Nuclear energy is a low-carbon energy,” said Lenka Kollar, of nuclear engineering company Nuscale Power, a panellist who said she personally opposed Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

Still, Trump’s views on coal are mirrored in many nations, even though the Paris agreement has a goal of ending the fossil fuel era sometime from 2050-2100.

Energy ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) issued a statement in September that “reaffirmed the need for increased promotion of clean coal technologies.”

Earlier on Monday, scientists said world carbon emissions mainly from burning fossil fuels are set to rise 2 percent this year to a new record, dashing hopes that global emissions had already peaked.

And opponents of Trump said the focus should be firmly on renewable energy. “No one is going to listen to someone who says climate change is a hoax,” said Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, referring to past Tweets by Trump.

Outside the U.S. meeting, other protesters who were unable to get in asked: “What do we want? Climate justice”.

Makoma Lekalakala, a delegate to the climate conference from South Africa, said: “They are climate criminals ... We should stop them promoting false solutions to climate change.”

Reporting By Alister Doyle and Laurie Goering; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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