EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt left a weekend meeting of the Group of Seven more than a day early, according to several media reports.
Pruitt traveled to Italy alongside six top environment officials from the other G7 countries and participated in the opening session about climate action on Sunday before heading back to the United States for a cabinet meeting several hours later. His acting assistant administrator, Davide Russo, will attend the rest of the meeting in his place.
During his brief visit, Pruitt had time to meet several of his counterparts, including a stint rolling out pasta and eating prosciutto with Italy’s Minister of Environment Gian Luca Galletti. He also spoke about measures to improve air quality with Japan’s Environment Minister, Koichi Yamamoto.
In a statement to Reuters, Pruitt stressed the need to move forward on environmental action following the announcement.
“I believe engaging in international discussion is of the utmost importance to the United States when it comes to environmental issues,” Pruitt said in the statement.
Pruitt, a longtime foe of the EPA before he took over the helm (he sued the agency 13 times), was instrumental in the president’s decision to exit the accord. He has long rejected the scientific consensus surrounding climate change and earlier this year called America’s Paris pledges “just a bad deal.”
Prior to his appointment by Trump, the former Oklahoma attorney general also maintained close ties with the fossil fuel industry. Emails published in February show Pruitt worked alongside oil and gas companies to challenge environmental regulations and, at times, even used his official letterhead to file a complaint for an energy group.
Following the White House’s decision to withdraw from Paris, local government officials and businesses have been drawing up their own plans to tackle climate change. Earlier this month, a coalition of 61 mayors promises to meet commitments under the accord and California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a deal to work on the issue with China, regardless of Trump’s plans.
Erik Solheim, the head of the UN’s Environment Program, called on the United States to lead global action on climate change, despite the Trump administration’s ongoing assault on environmental regulations.
“We are all looking for American leadership,” Solheim said, according to Bloomberg. “We need American leadership on climate, trade and peace. If the White House is not providing that leadership, we will find that leadership in other places. Europe is now more united than ever.”
HuffPost has reached out to the EPA for comment.