David Banks, Trump’s special adviser on energy and environment, spoke at the summit to promote fossil fuels as “vital to reducing poverty around the world and saving jobs.”
As he spoke, most of the audience stood from their seats and began to sing in protest.
The protesters altered the lyrics to “God Bless the USA” to say, “So you claim to be an American, but we see right through your greed/it’s killing right across the world, for all that coal money.”
— Lisa Friedman (@LFFriedman) November 13, 2017
Even after the protest, the members that remained in attendance continued to heckle the panel, saying “clean coal is bullsh*t” and calling them a “bunch of liars.”
Banks insisted that cutting carbon emissions is a priority but “energy security, economic prosperity are higher priorities.”
“The president has a responsibility to protect jobs and industry across the country,” he said.
It’s worth noting that the chain restaurant Arby’s employs more Americans than the entire coal industry.
“Without a question, fossil fuels will continue to be used and we would argue that it is in the global interest that when it is used it is as clean and efficient as possible,” Banks said. “This panel is only controversial if we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the realities of the global energy system.”
Barry Worthington, the executive director of the United States Energy Association, added, “Frankly, we don’t need the Paris plan.”
But the claims that coal is needed to help the poor are dubious at best.
“More coal will entrench poverty,” said Benson Kibiti of the Kenya Climate Working Group. “More coal is not going to end the problem of people living without electricity. The vast majority – 84% – of electricity-poor households globally are in rural areas, so off-grid solutions powered by renewables like solar, wind and small hydro are going to be the cheapest and quickest.”
Kathy Egland of the NAACP slammed the administration for trying to exploit impoverished populations to push their corporate agenda.
“Exploiting poor, disadvantaged populations to justify continued fossil fuel usage is a despicable breach of humanity,” said Egland. “The Trump team promoting this abomination are exhibiting the depth of greed, lack of morality and lengths the fossil industry will go to maintain their wealth.”
Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, trashed the administration’s efforts to muddy the waters at a climate summit.
“If the [Trump] administration won’t lead, it should at least get out of the way,” Bloomberg told The Guardian. “Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit.”
With Trump unwilling to lead, 15 states have announced a partnership with Canada and Mexico to phase out coal power and boost clean power.
“We are all in this together,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister. “The countries that move forward and realize there is a $30 trillion opportunity will be creating clean jobs and growing their economy.”
“Trump is a blip in history,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in announcing the partnership. “Not one country has expressed that there is any doubt [about climate action] just because Trump is still a climate denier. He can tweet his fingers off, but he won’t stop us. If you want to grow your economy, focus on the jobs of the future.”