Democracy Now! was in the room when indigenous and youth leaders disrupted an event Monday hosted by Trump administration officials promoting fossil fuels and nuclear interests at the U.N. climate talks in Katowice, Poland. Wells Griffith, special assistant to the president for international energy and environment, represented the U.S. at the event. Griffith said in his remarks, “We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability.” Moments later, nearly a hundred protesters began laughing, drowning out Griffith, calling the panel a “joke” and taking over the event to denounce fossil fuels.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from the U.N. climate summit here in Katowice, Poland. Protesters on Monday disrupted an event hosted by the Trump administration promoting coal and fossil fuels. It was the only public event hosted by the United States during the summit. The event featured Wells Griffith, special assistant to the president for international energy and environment. Griffith is a longtime Republican operative who served as deputy chief of staff to Reince Priebus when Priebus was chair of the Republican National Committee. Climate activists disrupted Griffith’s speech minutes after he began speaking.
WELLS GRIFFITH: Over a year and a half ago, President Trump announced the United States—the United States’ intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, unless suitable terms for re-engagement are identified. We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability. The United States is now the number one combined oil and gas producer in the world. If we are serious about eradicating poverty and providing universal access to affordable, reliable energy, it is clear that energy innovation and fossil fuels will continue to play a leading role.
PROTESTERS: Ha! Ha ha ha!
WELLS GRIFFITH: All the access—
PROTESTER 1: It’s not funny. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke.
PROTESTER 2: These false solutions are a joke! But the impacts to our front-line communities are not. We hold the solutions, and we know that we must keep it in the ground!
PROTESTERS: Keep it in the ground! Keep it in the ground! Keep it in the ground! Keep it in the ground!
PROTESTER 3: Our Mother Earth has been mined, drilled, fracked—
TRUMP SUPPORTER: Great, great, great!
PROTESTER 3: —and poisoned with radioactivity. We won’t allow it no more!
PROTESTER 4: My mother has called me on the phone to say that our home in Chennai has flooded multiple times, and then the next year said that we’re living in a drought. Do you know what this feels like? It is hard. No one deserves this kind of suffering.
PROTESTER 5: These folks over here are illusionists. They have a show, smoke and mirrors. They come here to sell. And ultimately, they’re carbon—or, climate deniers and carbon and nuclear energy profiteers. Shame on you!
PROTESTERS: Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!
WELLS GRIFFITH: I think we’re going to continue going. I think that was another example of, all too often, we can’t have an open and honest discussion about the realities. And it was actually fitting that we—we began—the interruption began during the energy access portion that we were discussing. In addition to economic growth, energy security and eradicating energy poverty, all energy sources are important, and they will be utilized unapologetically.
KRISTY DRUTMAN: Hi. My name is Kristy Drutman. I’m from Oakland, California. And I am one of the leads with SustainUS’s media team this year. And this action, we basically wanted to make a mockery of the Trump administration promoting fossil fuels here at COP24 this year in Poland, so we made a display. Everyone in the audience laughed. We did a walkout. We did chants and speeches featuring front-line and indigenous community members who are really pushing for real solutions to climate change, which involves putting fossil fuels in the ground and transitioning to renewable energy and focusing on community-led solutions to our climate crisis.
MONICA ARAYA: My name is Monica Araya, and I’m an activist from Costa Rica. We just witnessed something very backward, which is a male panel talking about something that doesn’t exist. They talk about clean fossil fuels, but we know that doesn’t exist. So that’s something that, you know, makes you scratch your head. But the other thing that was remarkable is that they talk as if science doesn’t exist. They talk as if the burning of those fossil fuels doesn’t have impacts. And, in essence, they are optimizing the wrong industry, because it was all about optimization of an industry that we know has to say goodbye.
PROTESTERS: Power to the people! Power to the people! Show me what community looks like! This is what community looks like!
AMY GOODMAN: The voices of protesters here at the U.N. climate talks in Katowice, Poland, disrupting an event hosted by the United States to promote coal and other fossil fuels. The action began when protesters started laughing at one of the speakers, the chair of the event, Trump adviser Wells Griffith, a longtime Republican operative who serves as special assistant to the president for international energy and environment. Griffith served as deputy chief of staff to Reince Priebus when Priebus was chair of the Republican National Committee.