BIARRITZ, France, August 26, 2019 (ENS) – The seven industrialized countries that make up the Group of Seven (G7) – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – had an ambitious environmental agenda mapped out before their meeting August 24-26 in Biarritz, a  beach resort town on France’s Basque coast.

The agenda included planning for an international strategy to tackle climate change and an emergency meeting to fight the raging wildfires currently destroying the Amazon rainforest.

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U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks with France’s President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, August 25, 2019 (Photo credit unknown)

But their Declaration, issued today, contained no environmental points at all.

U.S. President Donald Trump snubbed the Amazon wildfires meeting, offering the excuse that he had scheduled one-on-one meetings with the leaders of Germany and India at that time. But the leaders of those countries were at the wildfires meeting, although Trump was not.

Trump disrupted last night’s dinner with arguments over whether to reverse Russia’s exclusion from the group of nations. Russia joined the G7 in 1997 but was disinvited in 2014 from what was then known as the G8 due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In January 2017, Russia announced that it would permanently leave the G8 group.

Trump held a news conference at the close of the G7 summit in Biarritz, but he gave no details on the climate crisis. The United States will host next year’s G7 meeting. Trump did make a pitch for holding the 2020 G7 summit meeting at his resort, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida.

In a “Fact Sheet” issued by the White House on August 24, Trump says the United States energy and environmental record is “one of the strongest in the world, generating strong economic growth and energy production, while lowering emissions.”

In fact, lowering greenhouse gas emissions was President Barack Obama’s achievement. According to the 2017 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, since 2005 annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions did decline by 758 million metric tons, by far the largest decline of any country in the world over that timespan. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 were 13 percent below 2005 levels.

In January 2017, President Obama, who took office in January 2009 and backed many carbon-lowering regulations, was succeeded by President Trump, who immediately removed many of the Obama-era regulations and has continued to open public lands and waters to fossil fuel extraction.

In 2018, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4 percent after years of decline. The spike was the biggest in eight years, according to Rhodium Group, an independent economic research firm based in New York City.

The Global Carbon Project, a research project of Future Earth and a research partner of the World Climate Research Programme, reported a similar increase in U.S. emissions for 2018.

The data shows the U.S. is unlikely to meet its pledge to reduce emissions by 2025 under the Paris climate agreement. Under Trump, the United States is set to leave the Paris pact in 2020, and his administration has reversed many existing protections for land, water and wildlife.

In Biarritz today, the G7 leaders issued their end of summit Declaration. It says:

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At the G7 Summit in Biarritz, the leaders and their spouses posed for a family picture. From left: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. First Lady Melania Trump, U.S. President Donald Trump, France’s First Lady Brigitte Macron, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Aug. 25, 2017 (Photo courtesy Office of President Macron)

“The G7 Leaders wish to underline their great unity and the positive spirit of the debates. The G7 Summit organized by France in Biarritz has successfully produced agreements by the Heads of State and Government themselves on several points summarized below:

Trade
The G7 is committed to open and fair world trade and to the stability of the global economy.
The G7 requests that the Finance Ministers closely monitor the state of the global economy.
Therefore, the G7 wishes to overhaul the [World Trade Organization] WTO to improve effectiveness with regard to intellectual property protection, to settle disputes more swiftly and to eliminate unfair trade practices.
The G7 commits to reaching in 2020 an agreement to simplify regulatory barriers and modernize international taxation within the framework of the [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] OECD.

Iran
We fully share two objectives: to ensure that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons and to foster peace and stability in the region.

Ukraine
France and Germany will organize a Normandy format summit in the coming weeks to achieve tangible results.

Libya
We support a truce in Libya that will lead to a long-term ceasefire.
We believe that only a political solution can ensure Libya’s stability.
We call for a well-prepared international conference to bring together all the stakeholders and regional actors relevant to this conflict.
We support in this regard the work of the United Nations and the African Union to set up an inter-Libyan conference.

Hong Kong
The G7 reaffirms the existence and importance of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 on Hong Kong and calls for violence to be avoided.”

And that is the full text of the G7 Declaration, the shortest text in recent memory.

Thousands marched 30 kilometers (20 miles) down the coast from Biarritz to denounce leaders over poverty and environmental damage.  They say the G7 imposes “a system that serves the rich and the multinational. Social rights are being destroyed and the planet’s ecological disaster, poverty and war are everywhere.”

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Anti-G7 protesters march in Biarritz, June 22, 2019 (Photo by Txeng Meng)

Even with the daily reminders that the climate crisis is upon us, the G7 did not commit to cutting emissions. While France and the UK joined Germany in pledging support to the Green Climate Fund, other G7 leaders failed to help poorer countries who suffer the consequences and costs of climate change.

However,  during the meeting, the G7 leaders announced a US$20 million Amazon protection fund, which includes reforestation, to help repair the damage from the many wildfires now burning across the Amazon rainforest.

Before the G7 Summit in Biarritz, the host country, France, went to a great deal of effort to ensure the meeting was as green and sustainable as possible.

In a statement outlining these efforts, the French Government highlighted the green solutions of its sponsors and partners, saying, “To attain our ISO 20121 certification and Equality at a Major Event label goals, several sponsors and partners have provided support:

Orange, the French multinational telecommunications corporation, has made major efforts to develop and secure local infrastructures;

Engie, the French multinational electric utility company, provided green energy and low environmental impact solutions, including:

  • – a solar field powering electric trambuses, provided by the Urban Community of the Pays Basque with the support of the Syndicat des Mobilités, for journalists and the press center;
  • – 200 hydrogen-powered bikes, with the support of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region, for accredited journalists at the Summit provided by Biarritz’ own Pragma Industries, to make it easier for them to travel around the different Summit zones;

L’Oréal, the French multinational cosmetics company, provided its assistance to the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, which has made recommendations over the past year to the G7 leaders on how to make gender equality a great global cause;

Suez, a French waste management company, helped to reduce waste and to set up an extensive waste sorting system in the G7 Summit venues, and also a waste collection and recycling plan to convert waste for the benefit of the region;

Edenred, a French company specializing in prepaid corporate services, provided restaurant passes accepted by a network of 600 local restaurants as part of a “Welcome to the G7 in the Pays Basque” campaign, backed by the cities of Biarritz, Anglet and Bayonne and with the support of professional associations. This initiative helps to encourage people to try Basque cuisine and products and also to reduce food waste.

Bertrand Dumazy, Edenred chairman and CEO said, “The Biarritz Summit will be a key moment in the French Presidency of the G7 and we know how keen the teams responsible for its organization are to make the event an outstanding showcase of France’s commitment to eco-responsibility.”

In addition to efforts to shrink the G7’s ecological footprint, G7 organizers took advantage of a low-carbon label in France in April 2019, overseen by the Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition and the Ministry of Agriculture.

The first low-carbon label will be awarded to a carbon offsetting project in the Hergarai Valley of the Pays Basque. This project will receive significant support from La Poste Group, which has been carbon neutral since 2012 and was closely involved in the creation of the low-carbon label.

This voluntary offsetting project in France is reinforced by an international offsetting project conducted in Mali by the non-profit Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity, GERES, a French non-profit organization.

All of these initiatives have been showcased to raise the awareness of G7 delegations. France proposed G7 involvement through the signing of a “responsible delegation charter” including specific commitments. France asked G7 delegations to participate in one of the two offsetting projects – either reforestation of the Hergarai Valley in the Basque region or in Mali.

A dedicated space for sustainable solutions was provided in the International Press Centre at the G7 where these major themes and initiatives were highlighted:

1 – Watches made of plastic pulled from oceans, these environmentally responsible watches were offered as gifts to delegates;

2 – Presentation of the local and responsible provision of food by the catering service l’Instant traiteur;

3 – Fighting food waste through donation to local associations;

4 – Limitation and recycling of all types of waste;

5 – Presentation of the BATRIM innovation;

6 – Carbon offsetting through projects;

7 – Presentation of the “Equality Large Event” certification;

8 – Low-impact and environmentally friendly transportation: tram-bus connected to a solar farm, use of electric shuttles;

9 – Launch of the approach: International sustainable destinations

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