PARIS – The global climate summit in Paris was designed to bypass Donald Trump, but the U.S. president ended up playing a starring role.
Trump became the unwitting villain as world leaders, investors and other Americans assailed him Tuesday for rejecting the Paris climate accord.
To emphasize their point – and prevent others from following his lead – they announced more than $1 billion in investments to make it easier for countries and industries to give up oil and coal.
French President Emmanuel Macron used the summit to seize the global spotlight, capitalizing on Trump’s isolationist policies and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s domestic weakness to position himself as the world’s moral compass on climate change.
“We’re not moving fast enough,” Macron said, warning that the 2015 Paris climate accord is “fragile.”
“It’s time to act and move faster and win this battle” against climate change, he told the more than 50 world leaders and others gathered in Paris.
After opening the summit on a pessimistic note, Macron was more encouraging at the closing, praising the “very concrete” commitments made by the participants.
“We started today to make up some ground in this battlefield,” he said in his closing speech. Today’s commitments will be able to be tracked and verified on a dedicated platform, he added.
Bill Gates, Richard Branson and other energy executives and investment fund leaders announced a dozen international projects emerging from the summit that will inject money into efforts to curb climate change.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim won rousing applause when he announced that his agency would stop financing oil and gas projects in two years.
The summit, co-hosted by the U.N., the World Bank and Macron, was held on the second anniversary of the Paris climate accord, which was ratified by 170 countries. More than 50 heads of state and government took part.
Trump wasn’t invited, but he was ubiquitous.
One by one, officials including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, billionaire Michael Bloomberg and former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted the world will shift to cleaner fuels and reduce emissions regardless of whether the Trump administration pitches in.
Central to the summit was countering Trump’s main argument that the 2015 Paris accord on reducing global emissions would hurt U.S. business.
Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker, argues that the big businesses and successful economies of the future will be making and using renewable energy instead of oil.
The projects announced Tuesday include a program for eight U.S. states to develop electric vehicles, an investment fund for the hurricane-hit Caribbean and money from Gates’ foundation to help farmers adapt to climate change and develop low-carbon technology.
The projects also aim to speed up the end of the combustion engine to reduce the emissions that contribute to global warming.
Activists kept up pressure with protests – including one on a bridge at the summit venue, an island in the Seine River – calling for companies and governments to stop investing in oil and coal now.
Top officials agreed with them, saying the global financial system isn’t shifting fast enough away from carbon emissions and toward renewable energy and business projects.
“Financial pledges need to flow faster through more streamlined system and make a difference on the ground,” said Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, whose island nation is among those on the front lines of the rising sea levels and extreme storms worsened by human-made emissions.
“We are all in the same canoe,” rich countries and poor, he said.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono described ways his country is investing in climate monitoring technology and hydrogen energy, but he said, “We have to do more and better.”
Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, said environmentalists owed Trump a debt of “gratitude” for acting as a “rallying cry” for action on climate change. Bloomberg said the private sector coalition called “America’s Pledge,” that promises to honor the climate goals set in 2015, “now represents half of the U.S. economy.”
Brown, the California governor, argued against Trump’s plans to resurrect coal mining and said “it’s time for President Trump to join the rest of the world, not oppose it” on climate change.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Brown cited recent wildfires in his state as an example of extreme weather worsened by human-made climate change.
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.
Merkel, who was once labeled the “climate chancellor” for her efforts to curb global warming, faced criticism in Germany for failing to attend the summit.
In the Dutch city of The Hague, experts launched a plan Tuesday aimed at addressing threats created by water and food shortages.
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