HAMBURG, Germany – World leaders struck a compromise Saturday to move forward collectively on climate change without the United States, declaring the Paris accord "irreversible" while acknowledging President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement.
In a final communiqué at the conclusion of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg the nations took "note" of Trump's decision to abandon the pact and "immediately cease" efforts to enact former President Barack Obama's pledge of curbing greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
But the other 19 members of the group broke explicitly with Trump in their embrace of the international deal, signing off on a detailed policy blueprint outlining how their countries could meet goals in the pact.
The statement and the adoption of the G-20 Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth ended three days of intense negotiations over how to characterize the world's response to Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, and it came as this year's meeting of major world economies here laid bare the stark divide between the United States and the rest.
"This is a clear indication that the U.S. has isolated itself on climate change once again, and is falling back while all other major economies step up and compete in the clean energy marketplace created by the Paris Agreement estimated to be worth over $20 trillion," said Andrew Light, a climate change adviser at Obama's State Department.
Differences between the U.S. and other nations on climate, trade and migration made for a tricky summit meeting, which unfolded amid large protests that sometimes turned violent, with several injured and demonstrators setting fire to cars and looting in the streets of the German city.
"Nothing's easy," Trump said of the gathering Saturday as he complimented its host, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who has toiled to bridge the gap between the United States and other nations, for handling the challenge "so professionally."
Hours later, at the start of a high-stakes meeting with President Xi Jinping of China, Trump vowed to confront the threat posed by North Korea "one way or the other," and said he appreciated the Xi's efforts to respond to Pyongyang's latest provocations.
"It may take longer than I'd like, it may take longer that you'd like, but there will be success in the end, one way or the other," Trump said.
The wording on climate change in the communiqué represented a much-needed victory for Merkel, who played a major role in forging compromise language after France raised objections.
In other respects, though, the summit meeting had to be a bitter disappointment for the chancellor. When the meeting was first planned for Hamburg, Merkel's birthplace, she would have reasonably expected Hillary Clinton to be the U.S. president, and she had expected the event to be a strong part of her re-election campaign for a fourth term, with voting in September.
But Trump tends to suck all the media air out of a room, even in Germany, where he is deeply unpopular. This summit was always going to be primarily about Trump and his first meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
It has also been about efforts by most of the rest of the world to cajole Trump into softening his stances on global trade and the climate, with Merkel in a secondary role, trying to come up with compromises.
Her standing has also suffered as Germans have been shocked by violent protests by a small bloc of anarchists who saw the G-20 as a perfect platform for their rejection of capitalism and order.
Some diplomatic work was done at the summit meeting.
Working overnight, diplomats first agreed on a common text on trade, with a nod toward Trump's "America First" demands for restrictions on unfair trade, but had great difficulty on climate, with the Americans demanding a reference to the use of fossil fuels.
The climate section took note of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris accord and says the other countries nonetheless regard the deal as "irreversible."
It then nodded toward fossil fuels, saying that the U.S. "states it will endeavor to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally determined contributions."