U.S. refuses to endorse joint climate statement with other G7 countries

U.S. becomes only a footnote in climate communiqué.

Activists wearing masks of the leaders of the G7 summit protest President Donald Trump’s anti-climate action stance in Italy last month. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paolo Santalucia
Activists wearing masks of the leaders of the G7 summit protest President Donald Trump’s anti-climate action stance in Italy last month. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paolo Santalucia

The United States was literally only a footnote in the 15-page communiqué released Monday by G7 environmental ministers.

The meeting of environmental ministers from leading industrialized nations ended Monday with the United States refusing to sign a joint statement on climate change. In the statement, the remaining six nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom — reiterated their commitment to reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.

The United States did not join the other nations in reaffirming their “strong commitment to the swift and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.” In a footnote on page 2 of the document, the United States is quoted as saying, “We the United States do not join those sections of the communiqué on climate and [multilateral development banks], reflecting our recent announcement to withdraw and immediately cease implementation of the Paris Agreement and associated financial commitments.”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had left the weekend meeting in Italy more than a day early after being told by his counterparts they were disappointed with President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, according to several media reports.

Despite Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement — and his early departure — Pruitt told Reuters in a statement that he believes “engaging in international discussion is of the utmost importance to the United States when it comes to environmental issues.”

Pruitt participated in the opening session of the G7 environment meeting on Sunday before reportedly heading back to the United States for a cabinet meeting. EPA officials did not say before Pruitt’s trip to Italy that he would not be at the G7 meeting through its conclusion, according to a Bloomberg report.

While in Italy, Pruitt spoke with Japan’s environment minister about ways to improve quality, according to the EPA administrator’s Twitter feed. Jane Nishida, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs, reportedly attended the remainder of the meeting in Pruitt’s place.

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy attended the entire 2016 G7 environmental ministers meeting in Japan, which was held less than six months after the signing of the landmark Paris climate agreement. By the end of the meeting, McCarthy had signed a bilateral agreement with Japan’s environmental ministry that underscored their joint commitment to reduce mercury pollution.

With the federal government stepping away from climate action, foreign nations are considering whether to negotiate with individual U.S. states on potential agreements that would help to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Prior to the G7 environment ministers’ meeting in Italy, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks met Friday with California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in San Francisco to demonstrate that Germany is prepared to work with California and other states if Trump refuses to be part of the Paris effort any longer.

Brown and Hendricks issued a joint statement on climate change in which they said “the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement underscores the important role that non-state actors, and particularly subnational actors, play in achieving the overall objective and goals of that agreement.”

In 2015, California and the German state of Baden-Württemberg formed the Under2 Coalition, an international pact among cities, states, and countries to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius, the level of potentially catastrophic consequences. The Under2 Coalition now includes 175 jurisdictions from more than 35 countries across six continents.

After meeting with Brown in California, Hendricks traveled to Bologna for the G7 meeting where she told reporters on Sunday that Pruitt “made clear” the United States and the other G7 nations are at odds on climate protection.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks sign joint statement on climate cooperation. CREDIT: John Larimore/State of California
California Gov. Jerry Brown and German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks sign joint statement on climate cooperation. CREDIT: John Larimore/State of California

On Friday, Hendricks’ ministry posted a “fact check” of Trump’s speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement. “In his speech on the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, delivered on 1 June 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump made a series of claims to justify his decision,” the German environment ministry said. “We have put these claims to the test, with results that reveal blatant fallacies. Mr Trump’s speech does not stand up to fact-checking in decisive points.”

For example, Trump said China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants under the Paris climate agreement. “So we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement,” he stated.

In its response, the German environment minister explained the Paris agreement does not prohibit any party from building coal-fired power plants. “China is taking measures to achieve its nationally determined contribution and is even going the extra mile. At the beginning of the year, China announced that it would refrain from building over 100 coal-fired power plants. Investments in renewable energies in China are at record levels,” the ministry said.