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US President Donald Trump takes his place for the family photo on the first day of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on 7 July. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

US trying to water down G20 text on lowering emissions, warn charities

WT24 Desk

Donald Trump is trying to water down the wording of a G20 draft communique about lowering fossil fuel emissions, it has been suggested, The Guardian reports.

The section, seen by the Guardian, took note of the US decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change, but added: “The United States affirms its strong commitment to a global approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs.”

Charities warned that the US was attempting to take out the word “global” so it was not committed to an agreed international approach. They said officials also wanted to add a clause on fossil fuels.

The new sentence would set out plans for the US to “endeavour to work closely with other partners to help their access to and use of fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently” as well as deploy renewable and other clean energy sources.

A spokesman for Oxfam said: “Ending climate change is about ending harmful fossil fuels. The US is attempting to force language into the communique on planet destroying, dirty energy. Clean coal is a myth. The remaining G19 should show some backbone and stand up to him.”

The news came as it emerged Trump was holding his high profile bilateral with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, at the same time the G20 group will be having a formal session on climate change.

Many leaders have expressed their disappointment at Trump’s decision to withdraw from Paris, with British prime minister Theresa May claiming on Friday morning that she hopes “they will be able to find a way to come back into the Paris agreement”.

Using stronger language than previously, May added: “I believe that is possible. We are not renegotiating the Paris agreement. That stays.”

All world leaders gathering at the G20Summit in Hamburg with the exception of the US plan to assert the irreversibility of their decision to commit to carbon reduction targets under the Paris accord.

The joint communique notes, but does not condemn, the US decision to withdraw, instead claiming the US is committed to cutting carbon emissions by other routes. The communique also calls for the commitments made under the Paris treaty to be implemented swiftly.

Angela Merkel the German host has said there are clear differences between the US and the rest of the G20 on climate change, adding that there is no point in disguising them. There have been suggestions that the Chinese did not want the disagreement to be highlighted in a communique that the US would feel it was impossible to sign. The Chinese vice-minister of finance, Zhu Guangyao, said the aim should be consensus among all members.

There were also fears that some of the less enthusiastic supporters of the Paris treaty might backtrack and join the US in pulling out of the treaty. Russia and Turkey, for instance, have signed the agreement but not ratified it. Saudi Arabia, which was one of the last countries to hold out, has both signed and ratified.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, underlined the threat climate change poses to Africa and alluded to an expected increase in migration, saying “when it comes to Africa I assume the Paris agreement will be supported by almost everyone”.

The European council president, Donald Tusk, also praised Trump’s surprising speech hailing the virtues of the transatlantic alliance, but questioned whether these words will be followed by deeds. He said “I’ve heard yesterday in Warsaw, surprising diplomatic words from the American president about transatlantic community, about the cooperation between the United States, Europe, about our common political tradition and civilisation, and about the readiness to protect and to defend the whole western community.

“We have been waiting for a long time to hear these words from President Trump but the real question is whether it was a one-time incident or a new policy. President Trump said yesterday in Warsaw that words are easy, but it is actions that matter – and the first test will be our meeting here in Hamburg.”

The final version of the communique will be negotiated overnight by sherpas from the 20 attending countries. But Merkel is under domestic pressure not to brush the dispute on climate change under the carpet.

German’s federal environment minister Barbara Hendricks, a member of the SDP, had insisted the differences could not be covered up saying “we must not be stopped from protecting the climate. The climate treaty is not negotiable.”

German Green party chairman Cem Özdemir added: “We need to send a strong signal. The G20 countries produce 80% of global CO2 emissions, so they have a lever in their hands … I expect the summit to make a clear commitment to the Paris climate change agreement.”

Jennifer Morgan, international executive director of Greenpeace, said: “Merkel, as the G20 host, must not sacrifice ambition for unity. Instead, we need a G19 commitment to climate action that demonstrates the intent to implement and even go beyond what 195 nations agreed to in Paris.

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