COP23: At least 15 countries join anti-coal alliance in defiant message to Trump

The alliance is led by two US allies: the UK and Canada

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 16 November 2017 17:35 GMT
A coal-fired power station just a dozen miles from the conference in Bonn
A coal-fired power station just a dozen miles from the conference in Bonn (Getty)

At least 15 countries have joined an alliance against coal use at the ongoing United Nations climate change negotiations taking place in Bonn, Germany.

Called the Powering Past Coal, the alliance was started by the UK, Canada, and the Marshall Islands.

International climate lead at Christian Aid lead, Mohamed Adow, told Reuters that the alliance is a “rebuke to President Trump from the UK and Canada, two of America’s closest allies, that his obsession for dirty energy will not spread”.

Current members also include Denmark, Finland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Mexico but the goal is to sign up at least 50 countries by the 2018 UN climate summit.

Major coal users like China, the US, Russia, and Germany have not joined. Though China has put forward an ambitious plan for solar energy, as has India.

The alliance appears to be a thinly veiled critical response to the current administration of Mr Trump.

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The announcement comes on the heels of an event the official US delegation – half the size of what it has been in the two previous Obama administrations – held on Monday. Industry representatives from coal, oil/gas, and nuclear power companies like Peabody Energy, nuclear engineering firm NuScale Power, and Tellurian, a liquefied natural gas exporter, were prominently featured during the event.

The presentation was interrupted for nearly 10 minutes by youth activists chanting and singing. Activists are a common presence at the UN meeting every year, but this time their ire was in full force opposing the US’s starkly different message from the rest of the world, several people attending the meeting told The Independent.

During the panel Trump international energy issues adviser George D Banks said it was “controversial only if we chose to bury our heads in the sand”. “Without question, fossil fuels will continue to be used, and we would argue that it’s in the global interest to make sure when fossil fuels are used that they be as clean and efficient as possible,” Mr Banks said.

An unofficial US delegation including California Governor Jerry Brown, former Vice President Al Gore, former New York City mayor and UN special envoy on cities and climate change Michael Bloomberg, as well several American mayors and CEOs have been a presence at the meeting as well. They aim to show that sub-national governments and the private sector in the US are committed to meeting the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement under the previous Obama administration.

The purpose of the meeting in Bonn is to hash out details of how to implement the accord, signed by nearly 200 countries in December 2015 in an effort to curb carbon emissions and contain global warming to 2C.

The accord officially goes into effect in 2020.

As part of the agreement, countries have submitted action plans to the UN climate change body outlining planned reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, which often involve weaning their economies off coal use.

In June, Mr Trump announced the US would begin withdrawal procedures from the deal and if uninterrupted the US would be out by 4 November 2020. After previous holdouts Nicaragua and Syria announced they would be joining the accord in recent weeks, the US is the sole country to be in the withdrawal process.

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