By Jeff Mason
BIARRITZ, France (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, responding to a question about climate change after skipping a G7 session on the issue, said on Monday that American wealth is based on energy and he will not jeopardize that for dreams and windmills.
Trump, who in 2017 pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord involving nearly 200 countries and has described global warming as a “hoax,” also sought to portray himself as an environmentalist at a news conference at the close of the Group of Seven summit in France.
“I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I’ve made that wealth come alive. … We are now the No. 1 energy producer in the world, and soon it will be by far,” Trump told reporters when asked about his views on climate change.
“I’m not going to lose that wealth, I’m not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills, which frankly aren’t working too well,” he added.
Trump’s administration has reversed U.S. environmental protections put in place by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama and has weakened the Endangered Species Act wildlife conservation law.
The Republican president skipped a session on climate change and biodiversity at the summit, instead holding bilateral meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The G7 leaders discussed the rainforest fires in Brazil and agreed to draw up an initiative for the Amazon to be launched at the U.N. General Assembly in New York next month.
French President Emmanuel Macron downplayed Trump’s absence.
“He wasn’t in the room, but his team was,” Macron said. “You shouldn’t read anything into the American president’s absence. … The U.S. are with us on biodiversity and on the Amazon initiative.”
Trump called himself an environmentalist, noting that he had filled out so many environmental impact statements as part of his work as a real estate developer.
“I want the cleanest water on Earth. I want the cleanest air on Earth. And that’s what we’re doing. And I’m an environmentalist, a lot of people don’t understand that. I have done more environmental impact statements probably than anybody that’s … ever been president. And I think I know more about the environment than most people,” Trump told reporters.
Environmental activists heaped scorn on Trump’s remarks.
“Trump’s phony brand of ‘environmentalism’ means gutting the Endangered Species Act, bowing down to polluting industries, and denying climate change while the world burns,” Travis Nichols, a Greenpeace USA spokesman, said in a statement.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Will Dunham)