By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA
WARSAW, Poland (AP) a¿¿ With coal-reliant Poland hosting U.N. climate talks, the fossil fuel industry will get a rare chance to play a more visible role in the global warming debate.
But in a move that has infuriated climate activists, the Polish government will also preside over a high-level coal industry event on the sidelines of the two-week climate conference, which starts Monday.
"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.
Coal, oil and gas companies normally keep a low profile during the annual U.N. climate talks, which are aimed at reining in the carbon emissions that scientists say are a major driver of global warming.
But Polish officials say that coal, which accounts for more than 80 percent of Poland's electricity generation, won't go away anytime soon and needs to be a key part of the climate debate.
So on Nov. 18-19, as the U.N. conference enters its final week in Warsaw, the World Coal Association and Poland's Economy Ministry are organizing a conference billed as "the coal industry's most important event of the year."
Organizers say the International Coal and Climate Summit will bring together coal industry executives, policy-makers and others to "discuss the role of coal in the global economy, in the context of the climate change agenda."
In a statement Thursday to The Associated Press, the World Coal Association said the coal summit is meant as a contribution, not an alternative, to the U.N. talks. It noted that U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres will be a keynote speaker at the event.
Given the irritation the coal summit has stirred in the climate community, attending it may have been an awkward decision for Figueres, who regularly promotes efforts to boost renewable energy and cut funding for fossil fuels.