Coal emerged as the surprise winner from two weeks of international climate talks in Germany, with leaders of the host country and neighboring Poland joining Donald Trump in support of the dirtiest fossil fuel.
An excavator mines brown coal on Friday at the Hambach mine near Kerpen, Germany. | AP
While more than 20 nations, led by Britain and Canada, pledged to stop burning coal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her country’s use of the fuel and the need to preserve jobs in the industry. Meanwhile Poland’s continued and extensive use of coal raised concerns that the next meeting, to be held in the nation’s mining heartland of Katowice, could thwart progress.
“People don’t have total confidence that Poland wants to increase ambition, to put it plainly,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group. “They’re 80 percent dependent on coal, they’ve been pushing back against European Union proposals to increase ambition.”
A growing group of countries are promising to end coal use altogether, saying its economic appeal is diminishing as carbon taxes push up costs while solar is increasingly competitive. Merkel herself led the world in installing renewable energy in recent years, but the pressures of forming a new government have seen her waver. Her change of tone at the Bonn talks, which were already clouded by Trump’s vow to take the U.S. out of the landmark Paris accord, fueled concern over the deal’s future as delegates look nervously to Katowice.