TORONTO — U.S. President Donald Trump says he thinks about climate change “all the time.”
Trump made the comment during a media availability with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in London Tuesday.
“Climate change is very important to me,” Trump told reporters after being asked why any mention of it was left off the president’s agenda.
“I’ve done many environmental impact statements over my life,” Trump said, referencing his experience as a developer. The U.S. president explained he believes strongly in having “very, very crystal clear” water and air.
“That’s a big part of climate change,” he said.
When asked if he’s concerned about rising sea levels, Trump changed the subject. “You know I’m concerned about everything,” he said. “But I’m also concerned about nuclear proliferation.”
Trump and Trudeau are two of 29 world leaders in London to discuss challenges facing NATO, the military alliance conceived 70 years ago at the end of the Second World War.
The NATO summit is happening concurrently with climate talks in Madrid at the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25).
Trump has previously called himself an environmentalist. He has repeatedly said that ensuring clean air and water are among his top priorities. His actions, however, convey a different message.
Trump has consistently rolled back Obama-era environmental policies during his administration. Methane emissions by the oil and gas industry are set to loosen as well as regulations that targeted coal-fired power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Last month, the Trump administration announced that the United States would formally withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The landmark international agreement calls on countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and hold the global average temperature increase to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
The Canadian target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 was first set by former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
That target was submitted to the United Nations in 2015, months before the federal election. Later that year, Liberals found themselves in government and ratified the Paris accord.
Liberals have repeatedly earned flak from environmentalists for not increasing targets.
Canada isn’t close to meeting its 2030 commitment, according to former environmental commissioner Julie Gelfand. She admonished the government in April for slow progress on adapting to the effects of climate change, despite the introduction of a carbon pricing system.
“For decades, successive federal governments have failed to reach their targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, and the government is not ready to adapt to a changing climate,” she said.
Canada is currently warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world, according to a report released by Environment and Climate Change Canada earlier this year.
Climate action was a top issue staked by the Liberals during the election.
Trudeau pledged that a re-elected Liberal government would introduce financial incentives for companies to help make Canada carbon neutral by 2050. To get the private sector on board, he said the government would cut corporate taxes in half for companies who manufacture zero-emissions technologies.
Despite promising to plant two billion trees and pledging to protect Canada’s High Arctic from climate change, Trudeau’s environmental credibility has been repeatedly questioned after the federal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion last year, with an estimated $7.4 billion still required for its expansion.
The federal government has claimed the Alberta-B.C. pipeline expansion will generate $500 million in revenue to fund climate change-related projects. Finance officials have not been transparent with how they arrived at that number.