The emergence of the so-called “G19” group occurred on Saturday, after Mr Trump refused to sign up to the communique pledging to implement the Paris climate accord – which the US president says he wants to scrap or totally re-work.
At a press conference to mark the end of her visit Theresa May said she was “disappointed” in the US’s intransigence on the issue, although the Prime Minister herself had neglected to raise Paris with Mr Trump in a one-on-one 50 minute meeting earlier in the day.
The PM raised the issue informally after the session had ended, a senior UK government official at the conference said.
“Like other world leaders here, I am dismayed at the US decision to pull out of the Paris agreement and I urged President Trump to rejoin the Paris agreement,” Ms May said.
“The UK’s own commitment to the Paris agreement and tackling climate change is as strong as ever. Not only will this protect the environment for future generations, it will keep energy affordable and maintain secure and reliable supply in order to protect the interests of businesses and consumers.”
Her comments were echoed by German Chancellor Angel Merkel, who said that 19 members of the Group of 20 have reaffirmed the Paris climate accord as “irreversible”.
She said that the summit’s final statement “takes account” of the US position rejecting the climate deal. She added that this was “regrettable”.
The Paris agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions comes into force in 2020, and mandates signatories to plan to reduce their emissions and report on their progress. It has been ratified by 153 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change members, and signed by 195.
But Ms May took a significantly less critical tone on Mr Trump when talking about trade, a sign that she is still relying on his support to make a success of Brexit. Elsewhere in the bilateral talks between Ms May and Mr Trump, the US President spoke of his country’s closeness with Britain, and pledged a post-Brexit trade deal would be concluded “very quickly” after the UK left.
“I have held a number of meetings with other world leaders at this summit and have been struck by their strong desire to forge ambitious new trading relationships with the UK after Brexit,” the Prime Minister told reporters at the close of the summit. “This is a powerful vote of confidence in British goods, British services, Britain's economy and the British people and we look forward to building on these conversations in the months ahead.
“I approach it in an optimistic way and a very positive way – we’ve already started talking with the Americans. The Trade Secretary was over in the US just a week or two ago talking to their trade minister about the opportunities.”
French President Emmanuel Macron used the talks to announce he would host another round of follow-up Paris climate talks in December, putting him even further from the US on the issue. Mr Trump is due to visit Mr Macron for Bastille Day celebrations next week.
The decision to release a split statement came after hours of wrangling between delegations over the wording. A diplomatic source said: “There was concern that not being able to agree the language on the Paris agreement could hold up the whole summit communique.
“Macron asked PM May to step outside with him, Trump and Turnbull to agree a form of words which allowed the 19 to express their support for Paris in the strongest possible terms, with the US stating its own position. This was done.”
The communique exempting the US from the joint G19 statement read: “We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The United States of America announced it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs.
“The United States of America states that it will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more clearly and efficiently, and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally determined contributions.
“The Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible.”
The decision to release a split statement came after hours of wrangling between delegations over the wording. A diplomatic source said: "There was concern that not being able to agree the language on the Paris agreement could hold up the whole summit communique.
"Macron asked PM May to step outside with him, Trump and Turnbull to agree a form of words which allowed the 19 to express their support for Paris in the strongest possible terms, with the US stating its own position. This was done."
NGOs derided the US’s stance, thought to be the first time a country has opted out of a joint statement.
Oxfam’s campaigns director Steve Price-Thomas said: “With the other 19 members firmly defending the Paris Agreement as ‘irreversible’, President Trump’s stubborn insistence on propping up the fossil fuel industry leaves him isolated and stuck in the past.”
But he warned that the overall G20 communique had done “not much” to help the world’s poorest.
Christoph Schott, campaigns director of Avaaz, said: “Trump’s planned climate coup has failed to split the G20. He came, he saw, and he caved when he realised that the remaining 19 countries, backed by millions around the world, were not prepared to indulge his climate delusions. Planet Earth 1, Trump 0.”
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