Global leaders taking part in the Group of Seven (G7) meeting this week are being called upon to brush aside the anti-science recalcitrance of the Trump administration and take the lead in addressing the crisis of climate change.
"The G7 states have played a major role in polluting our planet, but they can and must lead the way in the solution," said Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan in a statement Friday. "Here and now, the G7 has a chance to show the world they mean business. They must not slip up."
As heads of state meet in Sicily Friday and Saturday, there is much speculation over whether President Donald Trump will follow through on his threats to pull the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, which would put the onus on other global powers to step up. Trump will reportedly make a decision after the summit concludes.
Regardless of what he does, there is growing international agreement that the world's biggest economies must abandon fossil fuels, and from business groups to civil society, that demand has been amplified and directed towards the other G7 leaders.
As Morgan said, "We demand the G7 leaders reconfirm their commitment to the rapid implementation of the Paris agreement and outline a path towards an energy future free of coal, oil, and gas. If countries like the U.S. renege on their obligations, the G7 must move forward without them."
Many will be looking at the G7 communiqué, a document issued at the conclusion of the summit, to see if Trump's presence might "significantly water down a section of the leaders' communiqué devoted to climate and energy policy," Climate Home reported. For comparison, the 2015 document included an agreement to phase out fossil fuel use by the end of the century.
Ahead of the summit, the Elders, a group of human rights- and peace- focused elder statesmen, sent a letter to Italian Prime Minister and G7 President Paolo Gentiloni urging him to "mobilize the collective leadership of the G7 to deepen their commitment to climate action."
According to the group, such action includes collective commitment to and accelerated action on implementing the Paris agreement, increasing each industrialized nations' carbon cutting goals, promoting investments in "low carbon, climate-resilient development," and supporting vulnerable nations who need "financial and technical support" to implement their climate targets.
"The momentum is already there," says Greenpeace. "Three G7 countries—the UK, France, and Canada—announced last year dates to phase out coal, while Italy is considering a phase-out by 2025 or 2030. Germany, too, is heading in that direction, given the long-term climate plan it released last year."
"But," the group adds, Trump "is trying to head the wrong way, rolling back climate action at home and threatening to leave the Paris agreement. The G7 must stay firm and hold him to account."
To which Morgan added, "Our answer to Trump's 'America first' has to be 'Planet Earth First.'"
Meanwhile, on the ground, activists are determined to make climate a central focus of the talks. From the Oxfam International 'Big Heads' and a dramatic Greenpeace kayak action and installation on Friday to a mass protest in the streets on Saturday, campaigners are demanding the leaders put "Planet Earth First."
— Oxfam International (@Oxfam) May 26, 2017
— Greenpeace Italia (@Greenpeace_ITA) May 26, 2017
Organizers expect some 3,500 to take part in Saturday's march and rally. According to Reuters, the hilltop town of Taormina where the summit is being held is "off limits to most for security reasons, so the neighboring Giardini Naxos has been selected for the 'No G7' march."
"Today with Trump as president there is extreme uncertainty among immigrants without the proper documents who constantly fear deportation," said Father Tomas Gonzalez, who according to Reuters founded a shelter in Mexico for migrants and who came to Italy to take part in the protest. "The policy of building walls is costing migrant lives on both sides of the Atlantic," he said.