Trump to miss key climate crisis talks at UN summit as he chairs religious freedom meeting

Move is latest indication US president has little interest in addressing climate change despite global protests

Phoebe Weston
Science Correspondent
Saturday 21 September 2019 16:33
Donald Trump claims to be an 'environmentalist'

Donald Trump will miss key climate summit talks at the United Nations on Monday in favour of chairing his own meeting on religious freedom, according to a UN official.

The move is the latest indication the president has little interest in addressing climate change despite vast global climate protests, including 800 events held in the US.

At the UN meeting next week, 60 representatives from around the world – including the UK prime minister – are set to be making pledges on climate action.

A senior official confirmed to The Guardian the US president had booked a large meeting room relatively last minute on the same day for an event called Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom.

Mr Trump has a poor record when it comes to the environment and has previously vowed to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement.

UN authorities said it was unlikely Mr Trump would engage with other representatives on how to deal with the climate crisis in any case, but the move to create a different event scheduled for the same time has proved provocative.

Mary Robinson, the former Irish president, said: “He won’t go to the climate summit and he wants the distraction factor, I suppose.”

A statement from the White House press secretary said Mr Trump would be introduced by Vice President Mike Pence at the event on protecting religious freedom, an issue that is considered important to the president’s Christian voter base.

“The president is working to broaden international support for ongoing efforts to protect religious freedom in the wake of increasing persecution of people on the basis of their beliefs and a growing number of attacks on and destruction of houses of worship by state and non-state actors,” a spokesperson said.

A US state department spokesperson told The Independent: “Climate change is a complex global challenge. The United States supports a balanced approach that promotes economic growth and improves energy security while protecting the environment.”

The summit also follows global climate change protests in which millions of schoolchildren and protesters around the world took to the streets in what is believed to be the largest climate protest in history.

Students in more than 150 countries skipped school to join an estimated 2,500 protests in a bid to persuade governments to combat spiralling greenhouse gas emissions.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has urged countries to up their climate efforts and told leaders “not to come with fancy speeches, but with concrete commitments”.

He said: “People want solutions, commitments and action. I expect there will be an announcement and unveiling of a number of meaningful plans on dramatically reducing emissions during the next decade, and on reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

More than 30 heads of state and government have signed an appeal for greater action to fight climate change circulated by Alexander Van der Bellen, Australia’s president, ahead of next week’s conference on global warming at the UN.

However, the Trump administration seems to be going in the opposite direction.

Last month Mr Trump announced plans to revoke Obama-era regulations designed to prevent hazardous methane leaks from oil and gas drilling operations.

Reports say Mr Trump also wants to tear down Clinton-era legislation to open up more than half of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest in Alaska to potential logging, energy and mining projects.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments