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'Who Rules the World? Fossil Fuel Industry or the People?'

Global coal conference targeted by climate activists in Warsaw

Jon Queally, staff writer

As the COP19 UN climate conference entered its second week in Warsaw, Poland on Monday, a global coal conference that kicked off just down the road was met with protest by environmental activists upset with the high-profile presence of the very industry they say is largely driving the global warming crisis.

As dawn broke over the city, an international team of Greenpeace campaigners representing at least twenty countries took to the roof of the government's finance ministry building in order to hang a larger banner that read: “Who rules the World? Fossil Industry or the people?” Above the banner, the activists displayed flags from the US, Canada, Germany, Brazil, Australia and many other countries.

“Hosting a PR event for the coal industry during a climate conference is a slap in the face to all the people suffering from the catastrophic impacts of climate change," declared Martin Kaiser, Head of the COP19 Delegation for Greenpeace International, in a statement. "New investments in fossil fuels, like coal and oil, need to be stopped and transferred into renewable energy.”

Polish members of Greenpeace dropped a second banner in protest of their own government's decision to allow the coal conference to take place alongside the COP19 summit. Carrying a similar message, their banner read: "“Who rules the Poland? The Coal Industry or the people?” Poland continues to be Europe's leading consumer of coal despite repeated warnings about its destructive climate impact.

“Politicians are elected to stand up for the will of the people, not for the financial interests of an aging, dirty coal industry," said Maciej Muskat, Director of Greenpeace Poland. "Prime Minister Tusk must listen to the people and initiate a shift towards renewable energies.”

As the banner dropped, other protesters gathered below calling it a sham to allow coal corporations and other industry lobbyists to continue their push to extract and burn more carbon-based fuels while the planet's atmosphere and oceans are quickly deteriorating from humanity's over-consumption of fossil fuels.

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Police used a giant fire engine crane to remove the protesters, several of whom used climbing gear to dangle from the facade of the economy ministry.

Other anti-coal protestors outside the venue touted a massive set of pumped up plastic lungs.

One of Poland's most notorious coal problems is smog, especially in the southern tourist city of Krakow, which plans to outlaw coal-burning household stoves this month.

The two-day coal conference is being organised by an industry group, the World Coal Association, at the economy ministry. It is just miles from the Warsaw stadium hosting a second week of UN talks on curbing Earth-warming fossil fuels.

Environmentalists dressed in colourful traditional Polish costumes also unfurled a huge banner outside the stadium saying: "Stop dirty energy, empower the people".

Meanwhile, as Sophie Yeo reports for, a coalition of climate and energy scientists released a joint statement saying that new, more efficient power plants—or “clean coal”—are not a solution to the world’s climate crisis.


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