While heralding his brief appearance in Italy at a meeting of the G7 environment ministers as a chance to "reset" the conversation on climate change, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt nevertheless refrained from concurring with his colleagues over the urgency of tackling climate change.
He faces rising pressure over President Donald Trump's June 1 announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. Trump offered to "negotiate a new deal that protects our country and its taxpayers," but the decision nevertheless drew criticism from across the globe as world leaders doubled down on plans to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Pruitt attended "the first few hours" of the G7 summit held June 11 and 12, where his colleagues expressed their disappointment in Trump's decision, the Associated Press reported. During the meetings, the environment officials signed a communique outlining the agenda and focus of the group.
But Pruitt declined to agree to a portion of the joint document that dealt with climate change and the Paris Agreement, instead offering a footnote pledging to "continue to demonstrate through action, having reduced our [carbon] footprint as demonstrated by achieving pre-1994 [carbon] levels domestically." The footnote did not offer any specific examples as to how the U.S. will continue to work towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"We approached the climate discussions head on from a position of strength and clarity," Pruitt said in a June 12 statement addressing the G7 meeting. "We are resetting the dialogue to say Paris is not the only way forward to making progress." Pruitt also said the footnote is in line with the president's Paris decision and a pledge to cease contributions to a United Nations fund to aid developing nations in tackling climate change.
The EPA did not immediately return requests for more information on Pruitt's schedule and visit to the G7 meeting. But in video of Trump's first full Cabinet meeting in Washington, D.C., on June 12, Pruitt reported to the president that the G7 summit had gone smoothly.
"Our message there was the United States is going to be focused on growth, and protecting the environment. It was received well," Pruitt told Trump.
Karmenu Vella, the European Union's commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fishing, said in a June 12 statement that he "deeply regrets" Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, as well as Pruitt's decision not to concur with his fellow G7 leaders on climate change.
"Let me be very clear on the point of the irreversibility of the Paris Agreement: the European Union will not renegotiate the Paris Agreement. Now it is time for action, the world's priority is implementation," Vella said, speaking on behalf of the European Union. "The clear message from this G7 Environment Ministerial is that, with the exception of the United States, we are all determined to move [forward] and implement the Paris Agreement swiftly and effectively."
Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna also reportedly told Pruitt during a private June 11 meeting that her country has no interest in re-opening the Paris Agreement in an effort to bring the U.S. back on board, according to wire service Canadian Press. Some EPA officials did remain behind in Italy in Pruitt's absence, but McKenna said they "didn't say much during the remainder of the negotiations," according to the Canadian Press.
"The U.S. is now left as a footnote to climate action and that's very sad," McKenna said, as reported by Reuters.
Nevertheless, Pruitt touted the G7 meeting as a success, highlighting the areas in which the countries were able to agree. The EPA said all the G7 environment ministers concurred on "other, equally important environmental issues," including resource efficiency, marine litter, and environmental policies and jobs.
"Today's action of reaching consensus makes clear that the Paris Agreement is not the only mechanism by which environmental stewardship can be demonstrated. It also demonstrates our commitment to honest conversations, which are the cornerstone of constructive international dialogue," Pruitt said.