BIARRITZ, France – President Donald Trump said Monday that his first priority is to maintain the nation's wealth, not trade away that prosperity for climate initiatives that he described as amounting to "dreams and windmills."
"It's tremendous wealth," Trump told reporters gathered at the G-7 summit in France. "I'm not going to lose that wealth. I'm not going to lose it on dreams and windmills, which, frankly, aren't working too well."
Trump's remarks came after White House aides acknowledged he skipped a session of the G-7 meeting focused on climate, biodiversity and the health of oceans. The White House said the president was taking part in other meetings during that session.
The president did not answer two specifics questions: Whether he still harbored skepticism about climate change and what he felt the U.S. and other countries should do about it. Before his election, Trump had described climate change a Chinese hoax.
Trump has reportedly told aides that the meeting of world leaders has focused too intensely on climate and other environmental issues. White House officials have said the president wants the meeting to deal more with economic issues, and Trump pushed for and secured a session on Saturday focused on the global economy.
"The United States has tremendous wealth," Trump said, referring to the nation's preponderance of natural gas. "I've made that wealth come alive."
Trump has been at odds with other members of the G-7, especially host France, after he announced in 2017 that the U.S. would formally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Then-candidate Trump promised to withdraw the U.S. from the accord.
But Trump defended his environmental record on Monday, telling reporters that he was an "environmentalist."