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Trump will miss G7 climate change meeting following spat with Macron and Trudeau

The president will leave Quebec early, underscoring U.S. isolation from global climate leadership.

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing the White House for the G7 summit in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2018. CREDIT: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing the White House for the G7 summit in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2018. CREDIT: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump will leave the Group of 7 summit in Canada early following a public spat with French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The timing of his departure will ensure that Trump misses key meetings on climate change and the environment.

Canadian government officials confirmed Thursday that Trump will depart Charlevoix, Quebec before a G7 session on “climate change and clean energy” takes place. That Saturday morning session is considered a top priority by Canada, which is playing host to the annual summit this year.

Trump will reportedly depart Saturday morning, missing the climate sessions planned for that day by mere hours. An aide will reportedly stay and serve in his place.

The event brings together the seven largest advanced economies in the world — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Canada — to discuss key world issues. Russia has historically been included in the group (under the G8) but has been excluded since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Traditionally, the summit concludes with a joint statement signed by all parties laying out the policy positions the group has agreed upon. But the 2018 G7 summit has been dogged by controversy.

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Growing trade tensions between the United States and many key allies have dominated the lead-up to the summit, as well as disagreements on key agenda items like climate change. Prior to meeting with Trump on Friday, Trudeau bluntly responded to ongoing accusations from the U.S. leader that other countries are hurting U.S. jobs and industries.

“American jobs are on the line because of his actions and because of his administration,” Trudeau said Thursday, slamming steep tariffs introduced by Trump that target the EU, Canada, Mexico, and others. “When we can underscore this, and we see that there’s a lot of pressure within the U.S., perhaps he will revise his position.”

France’s Macron agreed, saying, “A trade war doesn’t spare anyone. It will start to hurt American workers, the cost of raw materials will rise and industry will become less competitive.”

Those comments sparked an angry retort from Trump, who took to Twitter on Thursday to respond. In a series of tweets, Trump lamented “unfair” trade deals and accused Canada of “killing our [U.S.] Agriculture!”

Canada has refused to back down. “We’re not sugar−coating the fact that there are strong differences of opinion and there are going to be tough discussions on a number of things that we don’t agree on,” an unnamed government official said Thursday evening according to the National Observer.

Trump’s focus instead has largely been a June 12 summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore, and not on the G7 talks, where he is outnumbered on a host of issues, including climate change.

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Canada has worked to emphasize environmental issues at the summit, inviting non-G7 leaders from various nations affected by climate change — including African and island leaders — and emphasizing topics like sea level rise and plastic waste.

Trudeau has meanwhile faced his own climate-linked controversy at home. The Canadian government announced last week that it would be buying a major Kinder Morgan oil pipeline in order to expand it. Indigenous leaders and environmental activists have slammed the bailout, criticizing Trudeau for seemingly playing both sides on climate issues.

The G7 summit offers an opportunity to spotlight such discrepancies for countries supporting the Paris agreement as much as for the United States. Those conversations will take center-stage on Saturday, but now it appears Trump won’t be there to listen.

Trump sparked outrage from international leaders last June when he announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. In the time since, leaders like Macron and Trudeau have worked to change the president’s mind, with little success. Increasingly, other countries have indicated a willingness to move forward on environmental protections with or without U.S. support.

At the 2017 G7 summit, held in Sicily, leaders united against Trump on climate, reaffirming support for the Paris agreement and essentially forming a “G6 plus one” approach to various major international issues. That mentality permeated the mood going into this year’s summit, leading to speculation that a joint statement signed by all parties may not be possible.

“The will to have a text signed by 7 countries must not be stronger than the content of that text. On principle, we must not rule out a 6+1 agreement,” Macron wrote Thursday on Twitter.

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At least one unnamed official told Politico that prior to the summit, other G7 leaders were concerned that the United States might object to the use of the phrase “climate change” in any declaration signed by each of the countries present.