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Disharmony at G7 as Trump plays his own tune

G7 nations risk unprecedented deadlock on Saturday after US President Donald Trump ditched the charm for snarls, resisting calls for concerted action on hot-button issues such as climate change.

Disharmony at G7 as Trump plays his own tune
US President Donald Trump ditched the charm for snarls at the G7 Summit. Photo: Eliot Blondet/AFP

After starting his first presidential trip abroad wreathed in smiles, Trump is ending it with rebukes, upbraiding America's European partners over military spending, trade and global warming.

An enduring motif of the G7, which represents the lion's share of global economic output, has been to champion free trade.

At last year's summit in Japan, it issued a lengthy communique in support of resisting protectionism, as well as helping refugees and fighting climate change.

But that was then, when Barack Obama still occupied the White House. Today, his successor is defiant about stepping out of the G7 line.

“His basis for decision ultimately will be what's best for the United States,” top economic advisor Gary Cohn said at the annual talks in Sicily.

Cohn was referring to whether Trump will execute his threat to walk away from the Paris accord on combatting climate change.

But his language also summarises the “America First” platform that elevated the property tycoon to victory in last year's presidential election.

Smoking volcano

That means the G7 is unlikely also to reprise its oft-used terminology against protectionism, after Trump in Brussels this week reportedly described the Germans as “bad, very bad” in their trade practices.

The club of leading democracies also looks set to fall short of last year's declaration on refugees and migration – the sort of language that is anathema to a White House that wants to impose a ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries.

It is a measure of the gulf that this year's Italian hosts say they expect the final statement to come in at just six pages when it is released on Saturday afternoon – down from 32 pages last year.

The summit did find common ground on Friday in endorsing a British call urging internet service providers and social media companies to crack down on jihadist content online, after 22 people were killed in a Manchester concert bombing in northwest England this week.

The G7, urged on by Japan, will also adopt common language against North Korea after a series of missile tests by the nuclear-armed nation.

Friday's discussions in Sicily ended with a classical music performance in the shadow of an ancient Greek theatre and the smoking volcano of Mount Etna.

Trump, however, seems bent on singing from a different song sheet, leaving the G7 bereft of a concerted voice as Russia and China are loudly heard offstage.

By Jitendra Joshi

ENVIRONMENT

From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?

The impact of global heating that scientists have been warning about for years is here, according to a United Nations report. From more heatwaves to rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities like Venice, here's how it will affect Italy.

From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?
Photo: FEDERICO SCOPPA/AFP

“Widespread, rapid and intensifying” is the headline of a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Scientists have observed changes in the climate across the entire Earth, across every region – a phenomenon that is being felt strongly in Italy as wildfires and blistering heatwaves sweep the country, with 17 cities on red warning weather alerts this weekend.

The Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif is also currently at melting point and could collapse, threatening the village below, while the heat in Sicily is set to break European records with a scorching 48.8 degrees C reported near Syracuse on Wednesday.

Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, revealed the report by the United Nations body for assessing climate change.

Some of the developments already happening, such as rising sea levels, are said to be irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.

Scientists have said that it is already too late to do anything about some of the climate change witnessed in parts of the world and that global temperatures could rise by 1.5 degrees this century.

The report, which three Italian academics contributed to, projects that in the coming decades climate changes will increase in all regions.

If 1.5 degrees C of global warming is reached, there will be increased heatwaves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons.

At 2 degrees C of global warming, heat extremes would reach critical levels for agriculture and health more often, the report showed.

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“An alarming picture emerges from the latest UN report on climate. It is an issue that concerns all of us and every aspect of our lives,” wrote Italy’s foreign minister Luigi Di Maio on Facebook.

Rising temperatures aren’t the only major concern. Climate change is creating shifts in wetness and dryness, winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans, according to the findings.

In Europe, regardless of future levels of global warming, temperatures will rise in all European areas “at a rate exceeding global mean temperature changes,” the report found.

In the Mediterranean region, scientists have observed an increase in droughts and project an increase in aridity and fire weather conditions at global warming of 2 degrees C and above.

By the middle of the century, more extreme weather temperatures are expected, along with more droughts and less snow and wind.

Coastal areas are expected to witness continued sea-level rises throughout the 21st century, which could lead to more frequent and severe flooding and coastal erosion. Extreme sea-level events that used to occur once every 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century, scientists warned.

READ ALSO: World Ocean Day: What is Italy doing to protect its seas?

Environmental protesters from the “No Grandi Navi” group demonstrate against the presence of cruise ships in Venice’s lagoon. Photo: MARCO SABADIN/AFP

Based on the IPCC’s report, NASA has created a sea level change tool to see how rising ocean levels would affect different parts of the world.

If no additional climate policies are adopted, Venice could experience an increase in sea levels by as much as 0.87 metres by the end of the century.

Even if global warming levels don’t exceed 1.5 degrees C by 2100 (compared to temperatures in the 1850-1900 period) – and if net zero emissions are achieved by the middle of the century, sea levels around Venice are expected to rise by 3.2mm per year.

That makes an increase of 0.41 metres by the end of the century, as the minimum.

These are devastating statistics for a city already under environmental threat – with the city narrowly avoiding being put on the Unesco endangered list after Italy recently moved to ban large cruise ships from sailing into the city centre

ANALYSIS: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from the lagoon at last?

Other parts of Italy are also under similar levels of danger from rising sea levels, with Cagliari in Sardinia forecast to experience an increase of 0.88 metres by 2100 if no climate change measures are made.

“This report is a reality check,” said IPCC co-chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte.

Rising temperatures have led to more wildfires in Italy this summer. Photo: MASSIMO LOCCI/AFP

“It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” she added.

Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are responsible for about 1.1 degrees of warming compared to the period 1850-1900, the report revealed.

“The evidence is clear that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of climate change, even as other greenhouse gases and air pollutants also affect the climate,” stated the report.

The report also shows that human actions can still determine the Earth’s climate in the future for the better.

“We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare,” she added.

READ ALSO: Climate campaigners sue Italian government for failing to tackle climate crisis

Scientists on Italy’s side of the Mont Blanc massif are constantly monitoring a melting glacier, where the risk of collapse due to rising temperatures threatens the valley below. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

What is Italy doing to fight climate change?

Italy is already facing extreme climate change events – it ranked first in the European Union for the number of major fires in 2021, according to the EU Commission.

It is also lagging behind in the objectives of the Recovery and Resilience Plan and much more needs to be done, according to Italian environmental group Legambiente.

Campaigners criticised the 750-billion-euro pandemic Recovery Fund, which included the aim of Italy becoming “carbon free” by 2050, for not being ambitious enough.

However, the government is preparing to appoint a representative by September to tackle the problems posed by climate change.

“We need to give an effective response, without wasting time. This is why we have decided to provide our country with a strategic figure in this field, namely the special envoy for climate change, as has already been done by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany,” stated Di Maio.

This person will be in charge “following the negotiations and representing Italy at all international tables,” he added.

READ ALSO: Italy postpones plastic tax again due to Covid-19 pandemic

Experts have called for immediate action with faster timelines: the goal of climate neutrality, set for 2050, should be brought forward, stated former environment minister Edo Ronchi, who has called on Italy to adopt “a law to protect the climate”.

“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming,” said IPCC co-chair Panmao Zhai.

“Stabilising the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” he added.

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