President Trump, who previously announced plans to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, was not invited to a summit of world and business leaders in the French capital this week to address global warming, but his presence loomed large.
The 2015 accord was front and center at the summit Tuesday aimed at giving the agreement a boost and the financing to combat global warming. Nations and business leaders pledged their commitment to the accord without Trump.
On Tuesday, top international figures lined up to describe Trump’s decision as wrongheaded and playing politics with the planet.
“Donald Trump may have pulled out of Paris, but not the American people,” former U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry added.
Kerry said many Americans remain "absolutely committed" to the Paris accord. He said 38 states have legislation pushing renewable energy and 90 major American cities support the agreement.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also criticized Trump, saying the president had taken a “politically shortsighted, economically irresponsible and scientifically wrong” decision.
Others, including business leader Michael Bloomberg and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, insisted the world would shift to cleaner energy and reduce emissions whether Trump and his administration agreed or not.
Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, said environmentalists should be grateful to Trump for providing a “rallying cry” for action on climate change. He said America’s Pledge, the private-sector coalition that promised to honor goals set at the 2015 conference, “now represents half of the U.S. economy.”
More than 50 heads of state and government are taking part in the summit.
“Financial pledges need to flow faster through a more streamlined system and make a difference on the ground,” said Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, whose island nation is threatened by rising sea levels.
The One Planet Summit was organized two years after representatives from nearly 200 countries met in the French capital and pledged to take action to reduce greenhouse gases, reduce dependency on fossil fuels and tackle pollution.
The agreement involved voluntary commitments that were to be reviewed every five years. Trump says the deal is bad for the country and jobs and has embarked on a slow withdrawal from now until 2020, when it is set to become the only country not signed on to the accord.
The European Commission — representing European Union states — announced $10.56 billion in climate change funding to give the Paris accord a boost.
There was also a flurry of pledges from companies promising to abandon fossil fuels and local governments signing up for more ambitious goals on cutting emissions.
The World Bank promised to phase out most of its finance for oil and gas by 2019 and announced it would join forces with the Global Covenant of Mayors to provide $4.5 billion for cities to adapt to the challenges of climate change.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the world’s wealthiest people, said his philanthropic foundation would pledge $300 million to help poor farmers in developing countries protect themselves from the devastation expected from climate change over the next three years.
After Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to “Make Our Planet Great Again” in a campaign playing on Trump’s election promise to make America great again.
On Monday, Macron awarded 18 climate scientists, most of them based in the U.S., multimillion-euro grants to relocate to France for the rest of Trump's term. The "Make Our Planet Great Again" grants are part of Macron's efforts to counter Trump on the climate change front. Macron announced a contest for the projects in June, hours after Trump declared he would withdraw the U.S. from the climate accord.
Climate Action Tracker, an independent group of research bodies, said that there had been a “significant improvement” on climate action globally, despite America’s rollbacks, but that Trump's withdrawal had led to a “significant deterioration” in the effects of commitments to the Paris agreement. It warned that of the 32 countries responsible for about 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, 24 had set insufficient targets, and the majority of them would not achieve even those.
Tuesday’s summit was hosted by the U.N., the World Bank and Macron.
“We’re in the process of losing the battle,” Macron told those gathered. “We’re not going quickly enough and that’s the drama. In 50, 60,100 years from now there will be leaders from 10 or 15 countries that will no longer be with us, they will have disappeared along with their populations.”
Willsher is a special correspondent.