By Elizabeth Renski, Executive Editor, CCTNE
The G7 Summit of the world’s most advanced economies in the Sicilian city of Taormina, Italy, on 26-27 May, must have been one the most anticipated events ever held. From the moment I arrived at the heavily guarded International Media Centre (IMC) for accredited press, photographers and media agencies at the Hilton Giardini Naxos (some 6 miles from Taormina), I could feel a sense of early promise that something extraordinary was about to happen and that perhaps the world’s great and mighty would be able to solve the most critical issues of our time once and for all!
Climate change, terrorism, migration and international trade were all expected to be addressed by the G7 leaders, but in the rooms and corridors of the IMC it was ‘climate change’ that was the buzz word and the question on everyone’s lips was whether the US President Donald Trump would honour his country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement signed by 195 nations at COP21. Hope was well alive that he would… The level of interest and support for climate action among the international media was truly overwhelming.
As the event was progressing, however, it became apparent that the US Administration was on course to break away from the other G7 members and turn the Summit into a ‘G6+1’. For neither Taormina’s dramatic skyline and the city’s cultural heritage, nor the intense lobbying by the other leaders, including an earlier audience with Pope Francis, were enough to inspire President Trump to join Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK in their commitment to implement the Paris Agreement. At the closing press conference of the Italian G7 Presidency on 27 May at San Domenico in Taormina, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni told us with sadness and disappointment that there were ‘differences that cannot be overcome’ and that ‘the commitment to COP21 was confirmed by just six countries, while the USA is still reconsidering its position’. The Leaders’ Communique that followed, confirmed the United States of America was ‘unable to join the consensus’.
So in a bid to make America great again, President Trump turned his back on the planet and millions of the most vulnerable people around the world who experience every day the devastating effects of climate change. Yet not all was lost. I for one returned from Sicily inspired. Not least by the generous spirit of the Sicilian people and the breathtaking beauty of their island, which they are so determined to preserve for future generations, as well as by the conversations I had with the many members of the international media, governments and NGOs, all confirming that the momentum on climate change was indeed, as described by the UNFCCC, ‘irreversible and unstoppable’. We will work relentlessly to save the planet. With or without the US Administration.