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Trump throws another wrench into COP24 with 'clean coal'

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: Trump at odds with other nations over climate change at COP24; a team of experts takes a fresh look at the unsolved bombing of CP flight 21 in B.C.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Steam rises from the Neurath and Niederaussem coal-fired power plants in Bergheim, Germany, Europe's largest carbon dioxide source. Donald Trump approves. (Sascha Steinbach/EPA-EFE)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • U.S. President Donald Trump is at odds with other nations at COP24 over global warming.
  • A team of experts take a fresh look at the unsolved bombing of CP flight 21 in British Columbia.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Trump's big lump of coal 

The Trump administration is doing its best to throw a wrench into the UN's climate change summit. 

Today, the White House dispatched two of its senior energy officials to promote the use of "clean coal" and other greenhouse-gas-producing fossils fuels at the COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland

The side event, entitled "Innovative Technologies Spur Economic Dynamism," was supposed to "showcase ways to use fossil fuels as cleanly and efficiently as possible, as well as the use of emission-free nuclear energy," according to a release from the U.S. State Department.

But instead, it served to illustrate the deepening divide between the United States and most other nations over efforts to stop global warming. 

Today's panel, led by Wells Griffith, Donald Trump's top energy advisor, was disrupted by protesters shouting "shame" and chanting "keep it in the ground."

The U.S. president has announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on fighting climate change as soon as he is legally able in 2020, arguing that the carbon-limiting pact "disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries." 

In the interim, however, he seems intent on causing trouble for the countries who remain committed to the framework.

Greenpeace environmental activists project words "No hope without climate action" on the roof of the venue of the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland December 9, 2018. (REUTERS/Janis Laizans)

Over the weekend, the American delegation joined together with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to block the unanimous endorsement of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The four oil-producing nations objected to a resolution saying that all countries present at COP24 "welcomed" the report, which calls on world leaders to act immediately to limit global warming to 1.5 C, proposing instead that the scientific study's conclusions be "noted."

The U.S. said the original language suggested it endorsed the findings, which it does not. 

Today, Saudi Arabia issued a statement saying its opposition to the resolution is based on unspecified "gaps and challenges" in the report that require further research. 

The way things are unfolding in Katowice — Poland's coal capital — it now seems unlikely that a consensus will be reached by the end of the two-week conference on Friday.

And Trump has taken to openly taunting supporters of the Paris Agreement on Twitter, claiming that four weeks of "yellow vest" protests in France prove that "people do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment."

The U.S. president, a longtime climate change denier, recently disputed a study produced by 13 of his federal agencies and 300 leading American scientists that warns of "substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being" in the coming decades due to global warming. 

This past week, Andrew Wheeler, the former coal lobbyist that Trump appointed as acting administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, announced plans to eliminate a rule that requires new coal-fired power plants to install carbon capture technology, saying the change will help "keep energy prices affordable." 

Trump came to power pledging to end the government's "war on coal," but the reality is that his administration has had virtually no success in increasing demand for the heavily-polluting fossil fuel. 

Environmental activists protest against fossil fuel during U.S. panel at the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland December 10, 2018. (Agencja Gazeta/Grzegorz Celejewski via REUTERS)

U.S. coal consumption dropped another four per cent this year, and is down 44 per cent since 2007, as power companies continue to close dozens of coal-fired generating stations in favour of cheaper natural gas, or renewable solar and wind power. In 2018, 14 gigawatts of coal power — enough to light 9.8 million homes — went offline in the United States. And the trend looks set to accelerate as utilities grapple with the fact that it costs more to keep old coal plants operating than to build new renewable energy facilities.

Trump is tasting success, however, at the global level where his climate change skepticism is showing signs of undermining the Paris Agreement.

A report from the Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs, released last week, argues that the "Trump effect" is slowing, if not reversing, global progress in reducing greenhouse gases. 

The rollback of U.S. regulations has made fossil fuel investments more attractive, while Trump's pledge to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is creating "moral and political cover" for other dissenters. 

Goodwill around the international bargaining table has also been damaged, the paper concludes.

It's almost as if Donald Trump has a plan. 

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Ian Hanomansing examines some of the wreckage of Canadian Pacific Flight 21, which can still be found scattered at the crash site in the B.C. interior. The plane was downed by a bomb on July 8, 1965, killing all 52 on board. (Tiffany Foxcroft/CBC)

Bomb on Board

CBC News journalists and a team of experts take a fresh look at the unsolved bombing of CP Flight 21 in the Uncover: Bomb on Board podcast, writes Ian Hanomansing.

It's been just over seven months since I first heard about the bombing of Canadian Pacific Air Lines Flight 21, and from the beginning, I wanted to learn more.

How was it that this mass murder — all 52 passengers and crew were killed — was never solved?

Crash site footage, 1965

4 years ago
Duration 1:01
On July 8, 1965, Canadian Pacific Flight 21 crashed killing all 52 on board. It remains one of the largest unsolved mass murders on Canadian soil.

As I made contact with family members of those who died, I began to realize this was a bigger story than I first thought. You know how people talk about closure after a violent death? Well, for some of these families, I discovered closure is not a word they would use, even after 53 years.

The sense of loss is still there. The quiet frustration over never having been told what investigators found out. And, of course, the haunting questions about who would place a bomb on that plane and why.

Over these past seven months, The National and CBC Podcasts assembled a team to do a major investigation. We gathered thousands of pages of documents, consulted with experts and tracked down family members of the suspects who have never spoken publicly.

Sometimes, when cold cases are reopened, we see the police at the time missed obvious clues or weren't diligent enough. That's not what happened here.

Our analysts said the work by the RCMP and Transport Canada was detailed and impressive.

Still, we were able to draw some conclusions they didn't seem to make at the time, or at least that they didn't make public.

We'll have the results of our investigation tonight on The National, and in the concluding episode of the podcast Uncover: Bomb on Board released at 5 p.m. ET this afternoon.

A few words on ... 

Theresa May's listening skills.

Quote of the moment

"I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe."

- Jamal Khashoggi's final words as captured in an audio recording of his murder inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, according to a new report from CNN.

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the the opening ceremony of 11th edition of Arab Media Forum 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Ali Haider/EPA-EFE)

What The National is reading

  • UN migration pact agreed to by more than 150 countries (CBC)
  • Theresa May postpones Brexit deal vote (Guardian)
  • Macron to address French public amidst continuing 'yellow vest' violence (CBC)
  • 25,000 Ottawa students face suspension in vaccine-coverage blitz (Ottawa Citizen)
  • Anti-Semitism pervades European life, says EU report (BBC)
  • 100 Christians snatched in raids on underground Chinese church (South China Morning Post)
  • Iraq celebrates one year since 'victory' over Islamic State (Al-Monitor)
  • Scientists solve decades-old swamp monster mystery in Florida (Quartz)

Today in history

Dec. 10, 1979: Canada's embassy in Iran overwhelmed by visa applicants amid U.S. hostage crisis

Canada's embassy in Tehran is under siege — not by angry protesters, but rather by desperate Iranian students hoping to study abroad. Ambassador Ken Taylor talks about the tense atmosphere following the revolution, and visiting one of his American counterparts who is being held by the Iranian government. But the CBC, like everyone else, missed the real story. At the time of this interview, Taylor and his staff were sheltering six U.S. diplomats and would help them escape the country on Jan. 28, 1980, in what became known as "The Canadian Caper."

Canada's embassy in Iran overwhelmed by visa applicants amid U.S. hostage crisis

43 years ago
Duration 2:27
Ken Taylor, Canada's ambassador to Iran, also describes meeting with a U.S. hostage stuck in the Iranian foreign ministry.

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Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.