US Switches Focus of its Bonn Event from Clean Energy to Fossil Fuels

One of US’s only public events, originally billed as promoting clean energy, now favors coal and nuclear power

The US has changed the focus of one of its few public events at the Bonn climate talks to emphasize coal and nuclear power, in a sign of the Trump administration’s goals at the talks.

COP23 conference in Bonnphoto by UNClimateChange, FlickrThe United States has changed the focus of one of its events at the climate change conference in Bonn to focus on coal and nuclear energy.

An event next Monday, opening the second week of the ongoing UN negotiations, was originally billed as promoting clean energy. However, it has since been changed to emphasise coal and nuclear power.

The event was first billed with the title Action on Spurring Innovation and Deploying Advanced Technologies but was subsequently changed.

The same event has now been retitled to: The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation. The speakers are listed as the same, but the explanation of the event’s focus has also changed markedly, from talk of “innovative solutions” and “transforming development pathways” to a strong statement in favor of fossil fuels.

It now reads: “It is undeniable that fossil fuels will be used for the foreseeable future, and it is in everyone’s interest that they be efficient and clean. This panel will explore how the US will be a leader in cutting carbon emissions through cleaner, more efficient fossil fuels and other energy sources.”

There was no explanation of the change. A US state department official declined to comment before the event but noted it would be open to all at the conference.

However, observers said the change was in line with the US government’s stance at the talks, which are focused on how to improve countries’ carbon-cutting targets under the Paris agreement of 2015.

Andrew Light of the World Resources Institute said: “Whoever the Trump administration is trying to target with this event, it isn’t people in the negotiating hall — they’re clearly focused on the booming global markets in renewable energy. At best, this event will be a curiosity, given the isolation of the US now in the international process.”

Although US president Donald Trump has begun the process of removing the US from the Paris agreement, this will not take effect, under the UN processes, until 2020. This means the US is still a party to the agreement and still present at the talks. However, for the first time in at least a decade, the US has no visible official representation. Under Obama, there was always a large US pavilion at the annual meetings — and even under George W Bush, who vowed to keep the US out of the Kyoto protocol even when other countries had ratified it and brought it into force in 2005.

At Bonn, the US occupies a small locked room that often seems unoccupied. There is no pavilion, and Monday’s event on coal and nuclear power is the first public sign of the US government’s engagement, though the UN said US delegates were present at at least some of the many meetings taking place around the event.

The Latest

Lives Cut Short

With fewer than 30 vaquitas left, the loss of a single calf feels like a blow beyond all reckoning

Brooke Bessesen

Climate Change Threatens Years of Work to Reverse Manmade Damage in the Everglades

Changing rainfall patterns, sea level rise complicate long-term plan to restore tropical wetland ecosystem

Emily-Holden The Guardian

Last Stand in the Swamp: Activists Fight Final Stretch of Dakota Access Pipeline

Opponents of the 160-mile Bayou Bridge pipeline, which will cross Native American land and 700 bodies of water, have chained themselves to machinery

Lauren Zanolli The Guardian

In Defense of Place

Rural Montana leaders demonstrate grit and gratitude in their fight for the land

Steven D. Paulson

Clean Water, Renewable Energy, and Offshore Drilling Are All on November Ballots

Midterm elections will serve as crucial test of whether states can help combat federal environmental rollbacks

Tarah Lohan

Do You Live in a Chemical Disaster Danger Zone?

New map shows 40% of Americans live in constant risk of chemical exposure or explosion. The Trump Administration is trying to roll back protections.

Eric Whalen