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International relations

US leaves G-7 peers to talk among themselves on Paris accord

Climate-change skeptic Pruitt attends only one session of Bologna meeting

Group of Seven environment ministers remain divided on the Paris Agreement at a meeting in Bologna, Italy, on June 11. (Pool photo)

BOLOGNA, Italy -- The Group of Seven countries could not bridge the gap with the U.S. with regards to the Paris Agreement on climate change at a meeting of its environment ministers which began on Sunday.

Scott Pruitt, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, attended only one session, while the British and French ministers were absent due to domestic politics.

With the meeting coming just 10 days after President Donald Trump announced his country's withdrawal from the agreement, the six remaining countries are likely to have their work cut out persuading the U.S. to reverse the decision.

Ministers from the six countries expressed dismay at Washington's decision to leave the accord and the meeting, which will be held through Monday, now focuses on how they can continue to promote the agreement.

Gian Luca Galletti, Italy's environment minister, told reporters that there is a huge gap between the six countries and the U.S. on their stance toward the agreement, and the situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, said he did not care if the U.S. participates or not, and that the remaining six would continue the fight against global warming regardless of the White House's position.

Pruitt met Koichi Yamamoto, Japan's environment minister, before the meeting. According to a Japanese official, Pruitt said the U.S. will make efforts to curb emissions as a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change -- the precursor to the Paris accord -- and explained that the U.S. is not against taking measures to prevent global warming. Yamamoto told Pruitt he wants to work with the U.S. within the Paris framework.

Pruitt, a known climate-change skeptic, left after the morning session to meet with Trump.

The U.K. was unable to send its environment minister with the ruling Conservative Party having performed poorly in Thursday's general election. French environment minister Nicolas Hulot stayed home to focus on National Assembly elections on Sunday. Agence France-Presse reported that German environment minister Barbara Hendricks would not participate in the sessions on Monday.

The meeting is set to close after adopting the outcome document on Monday. Countries such as Ethiopia and the Maldives, where drought and sea-level rises are huge problems, are among those invited to the meeting.

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