G20 draft text fuses U.S. climate isolation with deal on innovation

BERLIN (Reuters) - Draft conclusions to this week’s summit of the Group of 20 leading economies acknowledge the United States’ isolation in opposing the Paris climate accord but agree to G20 collaboration on reducing emissions through innovation, a G20 source said.

FILE PHOTO: Protesters throw up a globe-shaped balloon during a rally held the day before the start of the 2015 Paris World Climate Change Conference, known as the COP21 summit, in Rome, Italy, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

The text, dated July 3, makes plain a 19-1 split in the G20 over the Paris climate accord, the 2015 global accord to fight climate change from which U.S. President Donald Trump said last month he would withdraw.

Under the agreement, which took years to reach, rich and poor countries committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases generated by burning fossil fuels that are blamed by scientists for warming the planet.

“We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement,” read the draft text of the conclusions on the climate chapter of which Reuters has seen a copy. A G20 source also confirmed the wording.

“The United States affirms its strong commitment to a global approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs,” the text added, noting the other G20 leaders agreed the Paris accord is “irreversible”.

The German government, host of the G20 summit in Hamburg from Friday to Saturday, neither confirmed nor denied the draft agreement.

“At the moment nothing is decided. There are many options,” said government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Greenpeace urged world powers to resist any attempts to water down the joint language on fighting climate change.

“The G20, or G19 if necessary, must make it crystal clear that the Paris Agreement is the only game in town,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.

Morgan said there was absolutely no evidence that Trump wanted to lower emissions. “The statement that the U.S. has a strong commitment to a global approach that lowers emissions smacks in the face what Trump is doing in reality - raising emissions,” Morgan said.

“This is the moment for the G19 to stand together on the right side of history and reject any diversions from the Paris Agreement.”

Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, said last month his administration would begin negotiations either to re-enter the Paris accord or to have a new agreement “on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”

By describing the accord as irreversible, the G20 text appeared to resist any renegotiation.

“We don’t want a parallel discussion on climate. For us, it’s all about Paris,” said one EU diplomat. “But at the end of the day it’s still the United States and if they want to renegotiate, we will probably still come to the table.”

Another EU diplomat said some delegations, who were instrumental in negotiating the climate deal, were lobbying to have the sentence on supporting a “global approach” removed.

In the draft, G20 countries agreed to collaborate closely to facilitate “well-balanced and economically viable” long-term strategies to enhance their economies in a way that is consistent with sustainable development.

“We will continue to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through innovation and energy efficiency,” the draft read.

The conclusions remain subject to change as leaders only start arriving in Hamburg on Thursday, before gathering for their summit on Friday and Saturday.

But a draft that both acknowledges U.S. isolation in its opposition to the Paris accord while securing the commitment of all G20 members to develop clean energy technologies through innovation may allow a conclusion that all countries can sign.

Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Robin Pomeroy