Indigenous and frontline leaders disrupt Trump’s fossil fuel panel at COP 24

“No one should see loved ones suffer from a crisis that can be prevented. The U.S. elite has profited off fossil fuels for decades. It’s time for them to pay up and support to the world transition away from dirty energy.” - Aneesa Khan, 23, SustainUS youth delegation leader. Photo courtesy of @ItTakesRoots & @SustainUS.

By Dan Bacher | December 10, 2018 |

Katowice, Poland - For the second year in a row, indigenous and frontline youth and community leaders from the U.S. today disrupted a pro-fossil fuels event hosted by the Trump Administration at the annual U.N. climate talks, COP 24. 

Just like they did last year at the climate talks in Bonn, Germany, the Trump administration held an event today promoting fossil fuels and nuclear energy as a “solution” to the climate crisis. Wells Griffith, President Donald Trump’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the Department of Energy (DOE), hosted the panel discussion, entitled “U.S. Innovative Technologies Spur Economic Dynamism.”

“The United States has an abundance of natural resources and is not going to keep them in the ground,”  Griffith claimed. “We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice their economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability.” 

Ten minutes into the panel discussion, over 100 people in the audience started chanting ‘Keep It In the Ground,” then stood up and blocked the panel from view, according to a statement from the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. Many there broke into laughter right after the Trump administration moderator said "fossil fuels will continue to play a role" in the world. 

You can see Democracy Now’s coverage of the event here:…

Four representatives from Indigenous, youth and Global South communities took the microphone and shared their stories about the growing movement in the U.S. to stop fossil fuel and uranium extraction and advance a “just transition” to 100 percent renewable energy. 

“There are over 15,000 abandoned uranium mines on the stolen lands of the so-called ‘United States,’ with most of that uranium used for nuclear weapons. said Leona Morgan (Diné, “Navajo”) Diné No Nukes, Indigenous Environmental Network. “Uranium Mining today is just as dirty and radioactive as it has always been, but now nuclear power is being pushed as a clean solution for climate change by the same colonial forces that failed in their attempts of genocide.”

“On my people’s ancestral homelands, we have coal, oil, natural gas, and we have uranium. Diné people are actively making changes in our own communities, stepping up to our own political structures, and demanding that the federal government stop developing fossils fuels, stop allowing radioactive colonialism and transport, and start to clean up the mines and the mess they left. We will no longer allow racism and imperialism to destroy our lands, kill our brothers and sisters, and alter our future,” Morgan said. 

“Trump's presence here is a joke,” said Aneesa Khan, 23, SustainUS youth delegation leader. “His only priority is ensuring fossil fuel CEOs squeeze every last dollar out of our communities. I remember listening to mymother’s voice over the phone saying that our home in Chennai, India was flooded from a hurricane. The next year we didn’t have water because of a drought. I’ve seen my aunt and uncle breathe in some of the world’s most polluted air in New Delhi.”

“No one should see loved ones suffer from a crisis that can be prevented. The U.S. elite has profited off fossil fuels for decades. It’s time for them to pay up and support to the world transition away from dirty energy,” Khan stated.  

"Our Communities, whose very survival is most directly impacted by climate change, have become a living red line,” said José Bravo, Just Transition Alliance, It Takes Roots Delegation.Our air and water are being poisoned by fossil fuel extraction, our livelihoods are threatened by floods and drought, our communities are the hardest hit and the least protected in extreme weather events—and our demands for our survival and for the rights of future generations are pushing local, national, and global leaders towards real solutions to the climate, economic, and social crises." 

“My mother sacrificed everything when she migrated to the United States from Honduras,” said Vic Barrett, 19, youth plaintiff in Juliana v. U.S. “I’m suing the U.S. government for delaying action on climate change because I don’t want my mother’s sacrifice to be in vain. The U.S. government is risking my future by continuing to promote fossil fuels while our climate is under threat.Young people are at the forefront of leading solutions to address the climate crises and we won’t back down. We won’t stop fighting.” 

This event took place just days after Trump rejected the federal climate reportthat documents the risk and urgency of the climate crisis in every single part of the U.S. The Trump administration, along with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait refused to allow a collective statement that would “welcome” the report that, ironically, was issued by his own administration.

The activists said the U.S. has “for decades, delayed, obstructed, and weakened progress on international climate action, promoting the agenda of fossil fuel CEO’s over the demands of everyday people. Just this weekend, the U.S. blocked consensus to include mention of the IPCC's report on 1.5 C at the U.N. climate talks, preventing the groundbreaking findings to be addressed by world leaders. The U.S. has also failed to contribute $2 billion to fill the Green Climate Fund and help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.”   

Livestream and photos are available from: @ittakesroots @ienearth @ggjalliance @CJAOurPower

On Sunday, December 9, the Los Angeles Times published an excellent op-ed by Investigative journalist Antonia Juhasz about about Trump’s energy policies, “Trump's pursuit of 'American energy dominance' threatens the entire planet.”  The article is available here:

“Trump has unleashed a massive, untethered expansion of oil, natural gas and coal production, designed to make this country the world’s foremost dirty energy powerhouse. The policy not only worsens catastrophic climate change, it pushes the U.S. into a small and increasingly isolated club of autocratic regimes intent on maintaining a global commitment to fossil fuels,” Antonia Juhasz wrote.

Last year at the UN Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany, Californians, including indigenous and frontline water protectors, disrupted Governor Jerry Brown’s speech at the “American’s Pledge” event on November 11 to challenge his support of the fossil fuel industry while he poses as a “climate leader.” The Brown administration has approved 21,000 new oil and gas drilling permits, including 238 new offshore wells in state waters, since 2011.

The banner-carrying protesters yelled, “Keep it in the ground” and other chants, referring to the governor’s strong support of expanded offshore and onshore drilling and cap-and-trade policies that could prove catastrophic to the Huni Kui People of Acre, Brazil and other indigenous communities around the globe.

“I wish we have could have no pollution, but we have to have our automobiles,” said Brown as the activists began disrupting his talk.

“In the ground, I agree with you,” Brown said. “In the ground. Let’s put you in the ground so we can get on with the show here.”

“This is very California. Thanks for bringing the diversity of dissent here,” the visibly disturbed Brown continued.

A video of Brown’s reaction to the protest is available at the Sacramento Bee.

You can read my interview with Daniel Illario, the Bay Area Idle No More activist that Brown focused on when he said, “Let’s put you ground,” here:

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