Leaders from the Group of 20 nations renewed their vow to take action to curb climate change, as the United States once again stood apart and at odds with the rest of the world.

US President Donald Trump — who at times appeared not to grasp the difference between global warming and air pollution — dismissed the worldwide push for climate action and denied that any aggressive response to curb the world's greenhouse gas emissions was necessary.

"We have the cleanest water we have ever had. We have the cleanest air we've ever had, but I'm not willing to sacrifice the tremendous power of what we've built up over a long period of time and what I've enhanced and revived," Trump said at the end of the two-day G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

The US was the lone dissenting voice in the final communique, where 18 countries and the European Union underlined that the Paris climate change accord is irreversible, and reiterated their commitment to its full implementation.

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The modest language adopted by G20 leaders was greeted as dangerously complacent by some environmental groups. But it displayed a common voice on the urgency of tackling climate change. The final statement hung in the balance until the final hours of the meeting, with Brazil, Turkey and Saudi Arabia all wavering.

America, as it has since Trump took power, reiterated its decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement "because it disadvantages American workers and taxpayers," and boasted that it had reduced its energy-related emissions by 14 per cent between 2005 and 2017. "I'm not sure that I agree with certain countries with what they are doing. They are losing a lot of power. I am talking about the powering of a plant," Trump continued.

"It doesn't always work with a windmill. When the wind goes off, the plant isn't working. It doesn't always work with solar because solar [is] just not strong enough, and a lot of them want to go to wind, which has caused a lot of problems. Wind doesn't work for the most part without subsidy. The US is paying tremendous amounts of subsidies for wind. I don't like it. I don't like it."

French President Emmanuel Macron said leaders had at least managed to prevent a backsliding on climate change, "clarifying Brazil's position on climate change and biodiversity," and preventing Turkey from withdrawing from the Paris agreement.

Saudi Arabia, which takes over the presidency of the G20 in November, has also questioned the science behind an authoritative IPCC report on global warming in discussions at the United Nations.

President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo / AP

"While other leaders managed to hold the line on the Paris agreement, it's unfortunate that they have to continually fight this rear-guard action against Trump denialism instead of devoting their energies to scaling up global action," said Elliot Diringer of the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions. "Trump is ignoring not only science but the growing demands of the US public and US companies for decisive action."

Paul Bledsoe, of American University's Centre for Environmental Policy, said: "Climate should a headliner right up with trade, but instead is largely an afterthought."

The outcomes

Trade and the global economy: The leaders agreed to address inequality and use smart policies to protect against threats to global growth from tensions over trade and geopolitical issues. They pledged to build up financial "buffers" to ensure government debts are manageable and to ensure monetary policies keep prices stable and economies growing. The leaders also said they would "keep our markets open."

Global warming and environment: Leaders discussed urgent problems with pollution, loss of biodiversity and climate change, noting the need for a shift in thinking about financing and the involvement of businesses in innovation and investment in sustainable growth. But their declaration included a recognition of the US decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

Cybersecurity and terrorism: The G20 said it was committed to doing more to prevent use of the internet to fund and facilitate terrorism and extremism. The leaders also agreed that such efforts must respect human rights and "fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression and access to information."

Sustainable development: Leaders would try to alleviate poverty, invest in infrastructure, promote gender equality and provide access to health, education and training.