KATOWICE, Poland (AP) — Miners' brass bands led celebrations Tuesday honoring the patron saint of miners in the southern Polish city that's hosting this year's U.N. climate talks.
Musicians began Miner's Day, dedicated to Catholic Saint Barbara, with a traditional sunrise concert in the streets of a historic district in Katowice.
The performers, dressed in black uniforms with red plumed hats, marched to church for a Mass in honor of the patron saint, who they believe watches over the miners as they toil underground.
Katowice has been a center of coal mining for more than a century and its culture is closely intertwined with the industry that is largely blamed for global warming. Many mines have closed in the Silesia region in recent years due to financial pressure and the drive for climate protection.
President Andrzej Duda vowed to miners that he would protect their jobs, saying coal mining is "one of the foundations of Poland's economy."
"Don't worry. As long as I'm Poland's president I will not allow anyone to murder Poland's mining," Duda said.
Scientists say the use of coal, one of the most polluting fossil fuels, needs to be radically reduced by the middle of the century to curb global warming.
But not all residents agree coal is the main culprit.
Klaudiusz Jania, who conducted another band that played on a local train, said he believed that the main problem was people burning waste instead of coal to warm their homes, to save money.
He says climate conferences are important but believes that the once-industrial region has done a lot to improve its environment.
"The amount of effort that has been put into improving the air, I think residents of Katowice, its authorities and the authorities of all Upper Silesia should be given a gold medal," Jania said.