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President Donald Trump’s disdain for action on climate change, along with his trade demands and behavior, left the United States estranged from its closest allies following the weekend summit of the Group of Seven major industrial democracies.
Trump skipped the G7’s formal discussions on the global warming crisis. And in the summit’s communique, the United States refused to join in common statements by the other six nations reaffirming their commitment to the Paris climate agreement, which he wants to abandon. Instead, the U.S. unilaterally promoted fossil fuels. And in the end, Trump renounced the whole communique in a Twitter tirade.
“Let’s be serious and worthy of our people,” the French presidency said in a statement quoted by AFP. “International co-operation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks.”
“We have seen this with the climate agreement or the Iran deal,” Deutsche Welle reported German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas saying on Sunday. “In a matter of seconds, you can destroy trust with 280 Twitter characters.”
The rupture on climate change, which has been building ever since Trump declared that the United States would pull out of Paris, was overshadowed in the mainstream press by conflicts over international trade and related issues, and by personal clashes, especially between him and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the host of the gathering.
Committed to Paris, Carbon-Neutral Economy
In the communique’s section on climate change, every member except the United States stood together in supporting the Paris climate agreement and promising to work with one another, local governments, businesses and the public to deal with global warming.
“Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan the UK and the European Union reaffirm their strong commitment to implement the Paris Agreement, through ambitious climate action; in particular through reducing emissions while stimulating innovation, enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening and financing resilience and reducing vulnerability; as well as ensuring a just transition, including increasing efforts to mobilize climate finance from a wide variety of sources,” the communique states.
The leaders, minus the U.S., committed to reduce air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions to reach a global carbon-neutral economy during the second half of the century.
The communique says they also focused on, among other things:
- energy transitions through market-based clean energy technologies;
- “the importance of carbon pricing, technology collaboration and innovation to continue advancing economic growth and protect the environment as part of sustainable, resilient and low-carbon energy systems”;
- financing to improve adaptation to climate change; and
- concrete actions to protect the health of the world’s oceans. The six endorsed the Charlevoix Blueprint for Health Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities and (with the exception of Japan) the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter.
U.S. Goes Its Own Way: Promoting Fossil Fuels
U.S. negotiators wrote their own paragraph for the climate section that focused on promoting the burning of fossil fuels.
“The United States will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently,” it said. “The United States believes in the key role of energy transitions through the development of market-based clean energy technologies and the importance of technology collaboration and innovation to continue advancing economic growth and protect the environment as part of sustainable, resilient and clean energy systems.”
This resembles language that the Trump administration has offered before, but that other parties to the Paris Agreement don’t embrace. None of the other six nations signed on to it.
It’s more common for other nations, whether rich or poor, to call for achieving sustainable development on pathways that simultaneously bring down carbon dioxide emissions rapidly enough to stave off the worst risks of climate change, which will hurt the poorest nations the most.
‘Wrecking Ball Approach to Diplomacy’
“President Trump’s wrecking ball approach to international diplomacy left him utterly isolated at the G7 summit,” wrote Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“Leaders from the other six countries didn’t even try to paper over their strong disagreements with Trump on trade, climate change and other important issues,” Meyer wrote. “They are joined by thousands of mayors, governors, business leaders and others who are moving forward with ambitious climate action and pursuing the tremendous economic development and job creation benefits that clean energy technologies provide. As communities across the U.S. confront the costly and harmful impacts of climate change, it’s these leaders—not President Trump—who are acting in the true economic, environmental and national security interests of the American people.”
This year’s G7 statement on climate change was more extensive than the G7’s 2017 communique. Last year, they included a single paragraph on climate change that stated that the U.S. was reviewing its policies and was “not in a position to join the consensus.” The other leaders said only that they recognized the process underway in the U.S. and that they reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement.
“America—until now—had led on climate,” Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp wrote after this week’s G7 meeting. “Today our president doesn’t even care enough to be present. We all must work to restore the USA to a leadership position.”
Greenpeace, meanwhile, put pressure on the other nations: “The joint commitment to climate action forged in Paris remains at the top of the geopolitical agenda despite the U.S. administration’s repeated attempts to demolish it,” Executive Director Jennifer Morgan wrote. “G6 leaders now have to demonstrate their commitment in practice.”