Donald Trump's climate change stance under fire from world leaders as Theresa May keeps 'pact of silence'

'I am trying to convince doubters. There is still work to do,' says Angela Merkel

Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent
Wednesday 24 May 2017 11:40
US President Donald J. Trump greets British Prime Minister Theresa May as she arrives at the White House in Washington DC
US President Donald J. Trump greets British Prime Minister Theresa May as she arrives at the White House in Washington DC

Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders – but not, apparently, Theresa May – will try to convince Donald Trump that the US should remain part of the international fight against climate change when they meet at the G7 summit.

The Prime Minister has been accused of having a “pact of silence” with the Republican billionaire over his description of climate change as a “hoax”, his plan to withdraw the US from the landmark Paris Agreement and pledge to reinvigorate the US coal industry.

A petition by Greenpeace urging Ms May to “use your influence to save the Paris climate deal” has attracted more than 155,000 signatures.

Speaking at a meeting of about 30 nations in Berlin before meeting Mr Trump at the G7 summit on 26 and 27 May, the German Chancellor said dealing with climate change must be an international effort.

“We are responsible for each other,” Ms Merkel said. “I am trying to convince doubters. There is still work to do.”

Mr Macron, the newly elected French president, will also attempt to convince Mr Trump to keep the US within the terms of the Paris Agreement, a senior French official told Reuters.

“What’s at stake is to be firm on the Paris accord,” the diplomat said, adding that Mr Macron would put his case to Mr Trump in person.

“We don’t want the US to pull out because it would be a very bad signal and lead others to pull out.”

Ms May has sent mixed messages on climate change. One of her first acts as Prime Minister was to close the dedicated climate change department and move its responsibilities into the new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Government has persistently failed on attempts to come up with an effective plan to reduce air pollution to within minimum safety standards, and its Emissions Reduction Plan – the key policy setting out how the UK will cut its greenhouse gases – is long overdue.

However it also ratified the Paris Agreement and approved the UK’s “Fifth Carbon Budget”, which sets tough emissions reduction targets.

There has been speculation that Ms May is keen to have Mr Trump as a political ally, particularly because of the talks with the European Union over Brexit. With the US on its side, the UK might be in a stronger negotiating position than if this were not the case.

This could explain her reluctance to expend political capital on climate change, particularly if she thinks it would only aggravate Mr Trump.

But the US President seemed happy enough to receive advice from Pope Francis during his visit to the Vatican.

Francis gave Mr Trump a signed copy of a message of peace, called “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace”, and a copy of his 2015 encyclical letter on the need to protect the environment from the effects of climate change.

“Well, I’ll be reading them,” Mr Trump said.

The Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental group in the US with about two million members, noted the Pope had been at the forefront of calls for action on climate change for years.

Speaking ahead of the meeting with Mr Trump, John Coequyt, the group’s global climate policy director, said the Pope’s “sentiments and actions have been echoed by nearly every other world leader around the globe, yet Trump is heading into [their] meeting as the only climate-denying world leader”.

“Trump stands on one side of this issue, while the Pope, a large majority of the American public, business leaders and the global community stand on the other,” he added.

“If one thing is already clear from this meeting, Donald Trump’s denial of the climate crisis has isolated him from the rest of the world and ceded US leadership on the most pressing issue of our lives.”

The Trump administration had been due to decide whether to remain a signatory of the Paris Agreement before the G7 meeting, but two internal meetings to discuss the issue were postponed without explanation.

In November, Fiji is due to be the official host of talks about climate change involving about 200 countries, held in Bonn, Germany, for logistical reasons.

Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s Prime Minister, suggested everyone was worried about what Mr Trump would ultimately decide to do.

“We have an elephant in the room,” he said. “That is uncertainty over the position of the United States.”

Downing Street did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reuters contributed to this report

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