World leaders at the G7 Summit in Biarritz last week focused on a wide range of issues, but the most controversial one might have been climate change. While matters such as Brexit, Iran’s nuclear program, and the US vs China trade war seem to exist in the political realm, and could in theory be solved with a few roundtable discussions, climate change is far more complicated. It’s not something the world has been ignoring either – in 2016, nearly every nation in the world agreed to the Paris climate agreement where soft goals were set to reduce carbon emissions and transition to green energy.
The Climate (Again)
As soon as Donald Trump assumed office as President of the United States, America’s participation in the Paris Agreement was over. Trump withdrew the US from the agreement in the first year of his term, making good on a campaign promise. To him and his supporters, the climate agreement was the world dictating to the US rather than America doing as it pleases.
Trump’s advisors lashed out at G7 leaders, particularly targeting French President Emmanuel Macron for devoting time to discuss climate change. Simultaneously, White House staffers both claimed that Macron was concentrating on “niche issues” such as climate change to embarrass Trump and in an effort to “fracture the G7.” It was not the first time that climate change created a rift between Trump and his counterparts across the globe. To some amusement, he left last year’s G7 convention earlier, prompting some mockery of him with references to the ‘G6’ being made once he left.
Admittedly, Macron had been under pressure to act on the recent climate topic du jour: Amazonian wildfires sparked by the Brazilian government. Protestors took to the streets in Paris before the G7 and followed the summit to Biarritz to push leaders gathered there to do something, anything, about the the crisis in Brazil. The Amazon rainforest accounts for the creation of 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen and is home to thousands of unique plant and wildlife species. Yet Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has convinced farmers and multinational corporations that the land would be more useful once cleared of the trees. Loggers can use whatever does not burn, farmers can till the land, and miners can drill for mineral resources.
In short, Bolsonaro’s sellout of the world’s most vital ecosystem has compelled the world to turn its attention to South America and the G7 was no different in this regard. Trump, however, decided to skip the climate meeting.
“The President had scheduled meetings and bilaterals with Germany and India, so a senior member of the Administration attended in his stead,” said Stephanie Grisham, White House press secretary. However, when asked by reporters, Trump replied that he would attend the climate session later, despite the fact that it had already taken place. Either he was under the impression that he would attend or he and his staffers were not on the same page when it came to creating an excuse.
The latter possibility seems more likely simply because Trump is not one to attend meetings over something he once called a “Chinese hoax.” The former excuse also made absolutely no sense as both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were in the climate meeting that Trump skipped.
So Trump was not in the meeting nor was he meeting with Merkel and Modi, and it will maybe never be known what exactly Trump was working on in lieu of the G7 forum on climate change.
Part of the Problem
When Trump refused to attend the climate meeting, he removed the possibility of the U.S. being a part of the solution for one of the most-pressing global issues. It cannot be understated how dire the situation is when it comes to climate change. Polar ice caps are melting about 70 years before they were expected to and worse, the world has known for decades that we must act on climate change. Corporations and governments, particularly in the U.S., simply chose to ignore the warnings of scientists and refused to sacrifice profits for something that would not have an immediate, tangible effect on their bottom lines.
Trump is as firmly a climate change denier as you will find so it should shock no one that he skipped out on a meeting that would actually take the issue seriously. As if to spit in their faces, once home from the G7 summit, he announced major rollbacks in corporate regulations that protect endangered species and the environment. The staunch reversal of government regulations was so massive that some oil companies actually spoke out against the move.
In the course of one week, Trump, went from having an opportunity to be part of the climate change solution to becoming part of the problem.
The other reason America’s commander-in-chief refused to attend a G7 meeting is that he simply prefers operating alone. When speaking at rallies, Trump has accused almost every international group and agreement of taking advantage of the US: the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Association, North American Free Trade Agreement, Paris Climate Agreement, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal).
Trump would much prefer to operate outside the scope and perceived limitations of international bodies. Furthermore, he has adopted a harsh tone against long-time allies such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, and Germany. He would rather brush shoulders with the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin which is undoubtedly why he pressed the G7 to restore Russia’s membership, an idea that did not fly with other G7 leaders.
The climate change crisis continues to look worser with every new analysis and research that comes out. The world used to expect America to play a part in helping solve these sorts of issues, to be a leader on the global stage. Those days are long-gone under Trump.He had the opportunity at last week’s G7, where other nations came together to approve $20 million in aid to fight Amazon fires, which Bolsonaro rebuked.
“We are now the No. 1 energy producer in the world,” Trump said in closing remarks at the G7. “I’m not going to lose that wealth, I’m not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills, which frankly aren’t working too well.”
Trump has never been a believer in climate change and that combined with his disdain for international groups gave him easy reasons to skip a meeting on the issue. That should not be a surprise though, which is a sign of the sad state of affairs of Washington politics under Trump.