At G20, world leaders set to move on climate without U.S.

Merkel noted that Trump “even made a contribution” when he dropped by a climate meeting, while a draft statement showed a 19-against-one split on the issue.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, front, looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump, center, pads the shoulder of France’s President Emmanuel Macron. CREDIT: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, front, looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump, center, pads the shoulder of France’s President Emmanuel Macron. CREDIT: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

World leaders at this weekend’s G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany are expected to issue a statement on climate change that will see the United States further isolated from the rest of the globe.

In a draft of the statement, obtained by AFP, the heads of the world’s most powerful economies acknowledge the U.S. exit from the Paris climate agreement, which brought together virtually every country in the world to prevent more than 2°C of global warming, but reaffirm the deal’s goals.

Underlining the agreement’s “irreversible” nature, the draft statement signals that, while the 19 other leaders had hoped to persuade President Donald Trump to rejoin the deal, they are also willing to move on without him.

Trump seemed unfazed by the prospect of isolation. He only briefly attended a meeting on energy and climate change Friday afternoon, before meeting separately with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While initial reports indicated that Trump had skipped the energy meeting, CNN reported that the president had attended and, per German Chancellor Angela Merkel, “even made a contribution,” though it was unclear what exactly that contribution might have been.

Merkel’s comment, alluding to the low bar many of her peers have set for Trump on climate issues, comes at a low point for U.S. leadership on environmental and climate action. Trump infuriated world leaders last month when he announced that the United States would be withdrawing from the historic Paris climate agreement. Along with Nicaragua and Syria, the United States is now one of only three countries to either reject or back out of the deal.

Multiple heads of state slammed the move. Merkel, along with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and French President Emmanuel Macron, issued a statement rejecting Trump’s proposal that the agreement be renegotiated.

“We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible, and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” the statement read.

But they also indicated a willingness to move forward, with or without U.S. support, something the G20 talks have also reflected. If confirmed as drafted, the statement would reflect the 19-against-one split many feared would play out during the summit.

Initially, some leaders had expressed optimism about changing Trump’s mind over the issue.

“I believe the collective message that will be given to President Trump around this table will be the importance of America coming back into that agreement, and I hope we will be able to work to ensure that can happen,” British Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC early on Friday.

Others seemed less hopeful. During a three-way talk with Macron and Trump, also Friday, Merkel struck a slightly sharper tone, while still calling for compromise.

“We all know the big global challenges and we know that time is pressing,” she said. “And so solutions can only be found if we are ready for compromise and move toward each other, but without — and I stress this — bending too much, because of course we can also state clearly when there are differences.”

Trump seemed to show no signs of budging on the issue, something his fleeting appearance at Friday’s climate meeting further underscored.

Another effort to encourage Americans to think about climate change was also foiled — Joachim Sauer, Merkel’s husband and a professor of physical and theoretical chemistry, took spouses of world leaders on a tour of the German Climate Computing Center on Friday, a pointed nod to the realities of climate change. But U.S. First Lady Melania Trump wasn’t able to attend — protesters had surrounded her guest house, preventing her from leaving.