That was awkward — at world’s biggest climate conference, U.S. promotes fossil fuels

President Trump’s top White House adviser on energy and climate stood before the crowd of some 200 people on Monday and tried to burnish the image of coal, the fossil fuel that powered the industrial revolution — and is now a major culprit behind the climate crisis world leaders are meeting here to address. 

“We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability,” said Wells Griffith, Trump’s adviser.

Mocking laughter echoed through the conference room. A woman yelled, “These false solutions are a joke!” And dozens of people erupted into chants of protest.

The protest was a piece of theater, and so too was the United States’ public embrace of coal and other dirty fuels at an event otherwise dedicated to saving the world from the catastrophic effects of climate change. The standoff punctuated the awkward position the American delegation finds itself in as career bureaucrats seek to advance the Trump administration’s agenda in an international arena aimed at cutting back on fossil fuels.

“There are two layers of U.S. action in Poland,” said Paul Bledsoe, an energy fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and former Clinton White House climate adviser.

One is the public support of fossil fuels, which Bledsoe said is “primarily aimed at the president’s domestic political base, doubling down on his strategy of energizing them by thumbing his nose at international norms.”

The quieter half is the work of career State Department officials who continue to offer constructive contributions to the Paris climate agreement that President Trump loves to loathe.

Which facet of the American presence proves more influential in Poland could have a big impact on whether this year’s climate summit, now in its second week, ends in success or failure.

Because greenhouse gases do not pay attention to national borders, a global front on climate action is crucial. The summit provides the only venue for countries to coordinate their push to curb ongoing global warming.

“This week is going to be telling,” said Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics at the World Resources Institute.

Monday’s presentation came after a weekend in which the U.S. delegation undercut the talks by joining with major oil producers Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in blocking full endorsement of a critical U.N. climate report. The report, by some of the world’s leading scientists, found that the world has barely a decade to cut carbon emissions by nearly half to avoid catastrophic warming.

But the United States balked at a proposal to formally “welcome” the finding, setting off a dispute that, while semantic in nature, carried ominous portents that the United States could become an obstacle to progress in Katowice.

“The worrying issue is the signal that it sends,” Mountford said.

To continue reading: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/that-was-awkward--at-worlds-biggest-climate-conference-us-promotes-fossil-fuels/2018/12/10/aa8600c4-f8ae-11e8-8642-c9718a256cbd_story.html?utm_term=.97f650d021b1