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Six countries commit to climate action at G7 summit while Trump doubles down on fossil fuels

Leaders representing six of the world’s most powerful economies committed to addressing climate change and environmental crises at the conclusion of this year’s Group of Seven (G7) summit over the weekend. But the United States made no such agreement, as President Trump doubled down on both his opposition to international climate efforts and his support for fossil fuels.

After weeks of controversy, the G7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec ended in a bitter war of words on Saturday, pitting the United States against key allies. Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and host Canada all reaffirmed their commitment to the targets set by the landmark 2016 Paris climate agreement,

But Trump, who announced U.S. plans to withdraw from the Paris agreement in June 2017, backed out of the communique which reiterates the agreements reached by all parties at the summit’s conclusion.

“Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the European Union reaffirm their strong commitment to implement the Paris Agreement, through ambitious climate action,” read the statement, without any mention of the United States. It goes on to champion “reducing emissions”, “strengthening and financing resilience and reducing vulnerability”, and “increasing efforts to mobilize climate finance”, among other highlights. 

The United States on the other hand offered a separate paragraph promoting 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 and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their Nationally Determined Contributions,” that statement read.

The Trump administration has largely promoted fossil fuels domestically, encouraging investment in oil and gas, while steering away from renewables. In yet another effort to bail-out the dying coal industry, the president ordered the Department of Energy last month to look into forcing grid operators to purchase electricity from coal plants.

Other parts of the G7 communique also saw the United States isolated, including an “ambitious” ocean protection plan. The G6 endorsed an Ocean Plastics Charter committing to “a more resource-efficient and sustainable approach to the management of plastics” with an emphasis on coastal and shoreline protection.

The United States did not sign on, although the country did agree to a general blueprint for “Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities”.

The communique represented some general consensus on world issues, but Trump walked back any U.S. endorsement of the entire statement a short while later on Twitter. This included accusing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of making “false statements” during a press conference concluding the summit. During his closing remarks, Trudeau expressed regret over a lack of consensus on various issues, drawing Trump’s ire in the process.

As a result, Trump tweeted “I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique.”

Trump’s comments on Twitter further reinforced a deep divide between the United States and a number of its allies, a running theme throughout the summit.

Ahead of the summit, Canadian officials confirmed last Thursday that Trump would leave early on Saturday, missing a key meeting on climate change and environmental protections, after a spat with Trudeau and France’s president Emmanuel Macron over tariffs.

Disagreements on trade dominated the summit, but climate issues loomed in the background. Unlike last year’s G7 summit in Italy, which saw G6 leaders largely attempting to sway Trump on the Paris agreement, the 2018 gathering cemented a “G6-plus-one” approach.

Trudeau has faced his own share of criticism from environmental advocates over his support for controversial pipelines, but the Canadian leader largely emphasized climate issues at the summit. Prior to the event, an unnamed official told Politico that Canada’s decision to host a “climate change and clean energy” discussion was a G6 victory.

At the summit’s conclusion, leaders largely indicated they were willing to move forward without Trump.

“On the [issue of] climate, we have an ambitious position at 6, without the United States. This is not new,” wrote France’s Macron on Twitter on Saturday.

While G6 leaders broke with Trump on the Paris agreement and ocean protections, the joint communique notably omitted any mention of phasing out “inefficient” fossil fuels subsidies in the next seven years, a pledge that was included in the 2016 communique. In recent years, the world’s seven major economies have spent upwards of $100 billion on oil, gas, and coal consumption annually.

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