President Donald Trump did not attend a climate change session at the G7 Summit in France, claiming that he had a scheduled meeting at the same time.
All the other leaders had taken their seats when French President Emmanuel Macron, the summit’s host, began the meeting with an explanation of a wristwatch made from recycled plastic.
Meanwhile, the White House issued a statement saying that President Trump was prevented from attending the session as a result of a scheduling conflict.
“The President had scheduled meetings and bilaterals with Germany and India, so a senior member of the Administration attended in his stead,” press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
However, CNN reports that the leaders of both countries were present at the climate change meeting, hinting at Trump’s unwillingness to attend the meeting, as well as at his isolation on the issue. An official said the staffer who replaced Trump worked for the National Security Council.
Following the session, the French president acknowledged Trump’s absence, saying only, “He wasn’t in the room, but his team was.” He later assured reporters that the U.S. shared the same views as the rest of the G7 on issues of biodiversity and combating fires in the Amazon rainforest.
Macron, nonetheless, pointed to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, suggesting that he had foregone attempts to convince the U.S. to return.
Ahead of the Group of 7 summit, aides to President Trump said he was more interested in the economic portion of it, rather than the climate sessions, which he considers a waste of time. Trump has complained in the past that during such summits, too much time was spent on issues he deemed insignificant, like clearing oceans of plastics.
But with fires raging in Amazon, Macron nevertheless decided to give priority to climate change, widening the rift between Trump and other leaders.