BIARRITZ, France -- U.S. President Donald Trump skipped a discussion on climate with other world leaders at the Group of Seven summit in France, later saying he knows "more about the environment than most people."
Trump was scheduled to attend Monday's session on climate, biodiversity and oceans, but didn't, leaving an empty chair as the heads of other developed nations debated Monday how to help the fire-stricken Amazon and reduce carbon emissions. French President Emmanuel Macron, the summit host, shrugged off the absence, noting that Trump's aides attended.
"You shouldn't read anything into the American president's absence," Macron said, adding, "The U.S. is with us on biodiversity and on the Amazon initiative."
Trump started the morning behind schedule, and during the climate discussions he held one-on-one meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both leaders also attended a portion of the climate meeting.
Asked at one point Monday morning about attending the climate session, Trump said it would be his next stop and that he wants clean air and water. But he never arrived.
At the end of the summit, Trump called himself an environmentalist, pointing to his time as a property developer and his work on federal forms explaining the impact of his projects on the environment.
"A lot of people don't understand that I have done more environmental impact statements probably than anybody -- I guess I can say definitely, because I've done many, many, many of them," Trump said. "More than anybody that's ever been president or vice president, or anything even close to president. And I think I know more about the environment than most people."
Trump is a climate change skeptic who withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord. Macron said it wasn't his goal to try to persuade Trump to rejoin the accord, arguing that "you can't rewrite the past."
At the time of the U.S. withdrawal from the accord, Trump said it would undermine the economy. The president said Monday that the U.S. has generated "great wealth" during his time in office, and "I'm not going to lose that wealth on dreams, on windmills -- which, frankly, aren't working all that well."
His comment came after the Energy Department released a report finding employment in the wind-power industry has risen to a record 114,000 full-time jobs. It's also the cheapest new source of electricity in many regions of the U.S.
"We think the president is making a political miscalculation in his comments on wind energy," Tom Kiernan, chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement.
Trump has said wind turbines are "monstrous," are "killing all the eagles," and "they say the noise causes cancer." In addition, wholesale power prices surged 40,000% earlier this month in Texas, in part because output from wind farms fell during a heat wave. And in the U.K., more than a million homes lost power on Aug. 9 after turbines in the North Sea tripped offline.
Trump said Monday that the U.S. is "the No. 1 energy producer in the world," citing its oil and gas wealth.
"We've become a much richer country, and that's a good thing, not a bad thing. because that great wealth allows us to take care of people," Trump said. "We can take care of people that we couldn't have taken care of in the past because of the great wealth. We can't let that wealth be taken away. Clean air, clean water."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who attended Monday's climate talks, expressed hope that Americans would take steps toward renewable energy and fewer carbon emissions, even if their president doesn't.
"I am very optimistic about American society and its capacity to deliver in relation to climate action," he told reporters. "What matters here is to have a strong engagement of the American society and of the American business community and the American local authorities."
Greenpeace France isn't so optimistic. It said Monday that the summit was "a new failure of climate diplomacy. Macron above all produced anecdotal initiatives that badly hide his failure to raise ambition of the G-7 climate goals, and his own inaction in France."
Information for this article was contributed by Sylvie Corbet, Darlene Superville, David McHugh and Angela Charlton of The Associated Press; and by Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Christopher Martin and Josh Wingrove of Bloomberg News.
A Section on 08/27/2019
Print Headline: Trump absent from G-7 climate session