U.S. will be the lone G7 holdout on supporting Paris climate deal

TAORMINA, Sicily — The U.S. will be the lone holdout on endorsing the Paris accord on climate change when leaders of the G7 will issue their 2017 declaration Saturday, officials said.

President Donald Trump had said he would give European leaders a chance to make their case for the climate change accord, but will make a final decision until returning to Washington on whether his administration will remain committed to the 2015 agreement.

Trump’s refusal to take a position while in Sicily has shaken the unity among the G7, the world’s most exclusive geopolitical club.

The U.S. has also raised doubts about the G7’s longstanding language opposing protectionism in all forms. The Trump administration blocked similar language in a G20 communique earlier this year.

The other six members – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK — will reiterate their support for the Paris agreement in the declaration, officials said.

Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn told reporters on Friday that the U.S. president had told his fellow G7 leaders that “the environment is very, very important to me, Donald Trump”—but reiterated his concerns that the U.S. was falling behind India and China in manufacturing. “He didn’t want to do anything to put the U.S. at a disadvantage,” Cohn said.

One senior EU official said that leaders recognized that Trump was at the center of an impassioned debate in the U.S., and even within his own administration, over whether the U.S. should stick with the Paris agreement, that they appreciated the chance to make their case, and wanted to give him space to come to a decision.

The senior official said that Trump’s fellow leaders had stressed their view that the Paris accord was not only about protecting the environment, but also served the business interests of the U.S. and its G7 partners.

Some supporters of the agreement have suggested that a withdrawal by the U.S. would help position China as a leader of global environmental policy, and new green technologies.

Leaders were in the final negotiations on the language of the 2017 directive. Among the issues still under discussion was whether to retain language saying the G7 would be ready to impose new restrictive measures on Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine.

The senior official said that leaders seemed to be leaning in favor of retaining that language, which does not call for new sanctions but maintains the specter of additional punitive action should the situation in Ukraine deteriorate.

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