G-7 Talks Leave Pruitt and U.S. as Climate Change 'Footnote'

  • U.S. didn’t join communique sections on climate and MDBs
  • Paris is ‘not the only way forward,’ EPA chief Pruitt says

Scott Pruitt, center, administrator of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency, attends a G7 environmental ministerial meeting in Bologna, Italy, on June 11.

Photographer: Kyodo News via Getty Images

Group of Seven climate talks confirmed a crack between six member states and the U.S. after the country’s representative left the summit in Italy just hours after arriving.

Environment ministers were unable to find common ground on climate measures, according to a joint press release from the seven delegations Monday in Bologna, Italy. The U.S. was represented by acting Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Jane Nishida following the departure Sunday by EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

The U.S. doesn’t join “those sections of the communique on climate and MDBs, reflecting our recent announcement to withdraw and immediately cease implementation of the Paris Agreement and associated financial commitments,” it said in the communique footnote. It “will continue to engage with key international partners in a manner that is consistent with our domestic priorities, preserving both a strong economy and a healthy environment.”

The world’s largest economies are divided over how to tackle global warming following the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris climate accord this month. Expectations for the G-7 talks were already low following President Donald Trump’s June 1 move to exit the agreement that was signed in 2015 by his predecessor. Alongside Syria and Nicaragua, the U.S. is now the only nation not participating in the accord. Trump’s plans to renegotiate a more favorable deal for the U.S. have been rebuffed by the leaders of Germany, France and Italy. Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna echoed that Monday and pledged to move ahead with U.S. governors, mayors and executives who still support the accord.

“It was very sad to see that the United States was relegated to a footnote on climate action," McKenna told reporters Monday, saying she told Pruitt the pact is not up for renegotiation and that he left the meeting after a couple of hours. "Let’s be clear -- the U.S. is bigger than one administration and we’re going to be moving forward, as is the rest of the world, with the states, cities and businesses in the United States that are committed to serious climate action and committed to the Paris Agreement."

Resetting the Dialogue

“We are resetting the dialogue to say Paris is not the only way forward to making progress,” Pruitt said in statement issued by the EPA after the talks. “Respective of the importance to engage with longstanding allies and key international partners, we approached the climate discussions head on from a position of strength and clarity.”

“Separate lengthy chapters on climate change and the role of multilateral development banks” were not endorsed by the U.S., Alden Meyer, who has followed international climate talks for more than two decades for advocacy group the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a note.

The U.S.’s withdrawal will take years to unfold as the earliest it can formally exit is Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the next presidential election. But Trump’s decision has already left it isolated. No other nation has said it’ll follow suit, and even coal-reliant India has said it will seek to exceed the Paris targets. 

— With assistance by Josh Wingrove

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