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Poland Books Coal Industry Summit Alongside UN Climate Talks

'Hosting a coal and climate summit side-by-side is like throwing a cigarette expo next to a meeting of cancer experts'

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Europe’s largest coal-fired utility plant is in Belchatow, Poland. (Photo: Maciek Nabrdalik for The New York Times)In partnership with the Polish government, Big Coal will host its own global summit alongside the upcoming UN climate talks in Warsaw in an event that green groups say illustrates the industry influence in politics that is destroying the planet.

“Hosting a coal and climate summit side-by-side is like throwing a cigarette expo next to a meeting of cancer experts,” said Jamie Henn, Strategy Director for the international climate campaign 350.org.

The 19th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will take place from November 11 to 22, will bring together representatives of nearly 200 countries in a bid to reach a new agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol that expired last year, which the United states still hasn't ratified.

Climate activists say this meeting was already hampered by industry influence, as well as the global inequalities that allow superpowers like the United States to keep emitting carbons with impunity. The coal industry summit has infuriated green groups, who have started referring to the climate talks as 'Coal COP' (Council of Parties).

Billed as the International Coal and Climate Summit, the industry event will take place November 18 and 19—the final days of the UN climate talks and will be hosted by the World Coal Association. It is being trumpeted as "the coal industry's most important event of the year."

In a country where coal accounts for 80 percent of electricity, the Polish government has argued that Big Coal deserves a seat at the table.

"It's been seen as a real provocation and a statement from the Polish government that they have no intention to move away from coal," said Wendel Trio, director of the Climate Action Network in Europe, in an interview with The Guardian.

“[Philippine super-storm] Haiyan should be yet another wake-up call for rich countries to finally wake up and make serious commitments," said Henn. "Instead, they’re hitting the snooze button and cuddling up with the coal industry."

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