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 a climate conference, former Trump White House energy policy advisor 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.
Under Trump the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department, for example, want to reverse regulations seeking to curb the leaking of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations.
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— Trump's EPA plans to rollback another coal-plant pollution rule: The EPA will announce on Thursday that it will reverse a requirement that new power plants must install carbon capture and storage, as Obama's EPA had required, according to a senior administration official briefed on the policy but who asked for anonymity because the change hasn't been formally announced.
A panel of U.N. scientists said in a recent report that coal and gas plants still operating need to be equipped with carbon-capture technologies to achieve the reduction in carbon emissions necessary for keeping the world under 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming past preindustrial levels. The Edison Electric Institute and the National Rural Cooperative Association will attend the announcement this week planned by acting administrator Andrew Wheeler.
— Another day, another lawsuit against the EPA: The Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth are both suing the EPA for records of meetings that Wheeler has had with various energy groups and with his former employer, lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels. “Wheeler is crippling environmental protections that inconvenience his old clients,” Bill Snape, a lawyer with the the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “The public needs to know what happened between Wheeler’s former employer and the environmental agency he’s now running into the ground."
— "Interesting times": Energy Secretary Rick Perry is planning to travel again to Saudi Arabia amid heightened tension between the United States and the kingdom following the death of Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Politico reports.
“I’m headed to the Middle East later here — to Qatar and then to the Kingdom — so speaking of interesting, these are interesting times,” Perry told the National Petroleum Council, per the report. “But there’s never been a more interesting time from my perspective to be in the oil and gas business.”
"The Energy Department declined to provide additional details about the upcoming trip other than to say he would 'engage with his energy counterparts in the region,’” per Politico.
— "He’s simply wrong": Washington state's governor wants to block Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) from serving as the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, The Guardian reports. Jay Inslee has launched a petition calling on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to stop the move. “Look, Joe Manchin III has been a champion for affordable health care for every American. He’s been a leader on issues you and I care deeply about,” Inslee said in an email to supporters. “But on climate, he’s simply wrong.”
2020: “The effort shows Inslee making an effort to appeal to those progressives as a potential ‘climate candidate’ if he chooses to run in 2020,” The Guardian adds.
— White House wants more German car production in U.S.: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Tuesday the Trump administration wants to increase the production of cars in the United States in an effort to “whittle down a $30 billion automotive trade deficit with Germany,” Bloomberg News reports.
The comment came ahead of a White House meeting of administration officials and automotive executives. Volkswagen’s chief executive Herbert Diess later said it was working on partnering with Ford Motor Co. and may use Ford’s plants to build more cars. He said the company is working with Ford to “really build up a global automotive alliance,” Reuters reports.
— Au revoir to the French fuel tax: The French government announced Tuesday it would suspend for six months the proposed fuel tax, meant to wean motorists off petroleum products and set to take effect in January, that sparked weeks of violent protests across France. The Post's James McAuley and Steven Mufson write the decision was a "setback" for French President Emmanuel Macron, "who has been trying to carry the torch of climate action in the wake of the Paris accords of December 2015."
Globally, "Macron is hardly alone in his frustration. Leaders in the United States, Canada, Australia and elsewhere have found their carbon pricing efforts running into fierce opposition. But the French reversal was particularly disheartening for climate-policy experts" ahead of the climate conference in Poland.
Trump took a jab at Macron following the announcement, tweeting that the demonstrations in France were linked to the Paris climate agreement and seemingly using the events to justify the decision to withdraw from the accord.
I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago. The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2018
....in the world. I want clean air and clean water and have been making great strides in improving America’s environment. But American taxpayers – and American workers – shouldn’t pay to clean up others countries’ pollution.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2018
— Electric utility aims to zero out carbon emissions: Xcel Energy, which serves 3.6 million electricity customers across eight states, announced Tuesday it aims to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2050. Ben Fowke, the utility’s chairman and chief executive, touted the company’s record on renewables at a news conference, saying it has been “leading the clean-energy transition at Xcel for quite a while now.” The company already had a goal of reducing carbon emissions by about 60 percent and upping its renewable energy sources to 55 percent by 2026, the Denver Post reports. “The new plan includes a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2030 across eight states and getting to zero emissions of the greenhouse gas by 2050.” Fowke told reporters the announcement, timed with the Poland climate conference, was in response to the “risk of climate change."
— Oil watch: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies are working on a deal to reduce oil output by at least 1.3 million barrels a day even amid pressure from the United States to lower oil prices, according to Reuters. “The producer group’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, has indicated a need for steep reductions in output from January,” per the report, which adds "Russia’s position would be key in reaching a deal."
— Monument shrinking getting into bees' business: New research published in the journal Peer J finds dozens of bee species could be harmed by the move to dramatically cut the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. “The western state is home to a quarter of the nation’s bee species, some of which are unique and have never been closely documented by scientists,” the Independent reports. “Of the 660 species found in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the team discovered that 84 now live outside of the conservation zone and the protections it affords.” Utah State University professor and study author Joseph Wilson told the publication that mining or recreational development could lead to habitat loss.
- The Brookings Institution holds a panel discussion on IEA’s Global Gas Security Review.
- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds a public meeting on Thursday.
— Arnold Schwarzenegger and Polish president shake hands "Predator-style": Former California governor laughed with Andrzej Duda as they did a “Predator” handshake on the sidelines of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland on Tuesday.