More than six months after President Donald Trump announced he would pull the U.S. out of the global climate deal known as the Paris Agreement, about 50 world leaders, as well as major U.S. business executives and U.N. officials gathered in the French capital for a daylong climate summit, insisting that Trump’s decision had no impact—and indeed, might well have mobilized the rest of the world to unite on a key issue.
“The fact that President Trump has a different view has been a rallying cry for the pro-environmentalists groups. And that has been very helpful,” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference in Paris, when TIME asked whether the U.S. withdrawal from the climate agreement would damage efforts to reduce global carbon emissions. “So I just want to thank him for all of his assistance,” said Bloomberg, who chairs an international organization aimed at getting companies to disclose their risks to climate change. “There is not a thing that Washington can do to stop it.”
The array of Presidents and Prime Ministers joined environmentalists and business executives including Elon Musk and Bill Gates at the One Planet Summit, on the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron organized the summit immediately after Trump announced on June 1 that he was withdrawing from the climate deal, which every other country in the world — including Syria and North Korea — has now committed to ratifying. Trump said in a Rose Garden ceremony that day that the agreement was “about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the U.S.,” and that he would “begin negotiations to reenter the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.”
Six months on, these negotiations are yet to happen.
Macron, who took power last May, told TIME in an interview last month it would be impossible for Trump to “renegotiate with 180 or 190 countries,” and that he had organized the summit in order “to show that we can deliver even without the U.S. federal government.”
Even so, Trump’s hostility to the Paris Agreement causes complications for the global effort. “Mike Bloomberg, the Governor of California [Jerry Brown] have said they will stand in place of the American government,” Macron told an auditorium packed with leaders and officials on Tuesday afternoon. “Nonethless the agreement has been weakened,” he said. “We are not moving quickly enough.”
Key U.S. figures in Paris on Tuesday agreed. “It will be difficult, it will be harder, because of what happens with the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Clean Power Plan,” former Secretary of State John Kerry told TIME on the sidelines of Tuesday’s summit, referring to the Obama administration’s regulation committing the U.S. power sector to transitioning away from coal.
Yet Kerry said 38 states—many of them Republican-led—have committed to reducing carbon emmissions. “That represents 80 percent of the American people,” Kerry said. “The vast majority of American people are committed to live by the Paris agreement.”
Tuesday’s summit fell on the second anniversary of countries agreeing to the Paris treaty in the French capital, which committed governments to reduce their carbon emissions, in order to restrict global warming to under 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, and entrusted rich governments to jointly invest $100 billion a year on climate-change initiatives by 2020.
The meeting in Paris seemed to cement Macron’s role as a key leader on climate change, now that the U.S. has shunned the global effort; he co-hosted the summit with the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker, now needs to help lock in government and private climate financing—the major theme at Tuesday’s gathering.
In addition, Macron has insisted he will continue trying to persuade Trump to change his mind on climate change—and that he retains an open dialogue with the U.S. President. Macron told TIME in his interview last month that he had not invited Trump to Tuesday’s summit, which was organized “to gather all the different countries strongly committed to this [climate] agreement.” Macron said then that Trump would not be invited “except if you get this big announcement coming from himself that he has decided to join the club.”
On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Macron said in an email to TIME that the Elysée Palace had been “open to invite President Trump, but after discussion with the U.S. administraion they told us that the good level for sending an invitation was the U.S. Embassy in France.” The embassy’s chargé d’affaires Brent Hardt attended the meeting.
Trump’s decision could deepen a shortfall in public funding for the Paris Agreement, by halting billions of dollars that had been earmarked for climate change. A study by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, predicts rich governments will invest about $67 billion in climate change by 2020—only two-thirds of what they promised under the Paris Agreement. What is more, it says public financing is more predictable than private-sector money. “Mobilised private finance in 2020 cannot be projected with the same degree of confidence as public finance,” says the OECD.
On Monday evening, Macron announced 13 scientists would relocate from the U.S. to France, under a public-grant program that he launched immediately after Trump’s decision in June. He titled the effort “make our planet great again,” a not-subtle dig at the U.S. President, encouraging environmental researchers to come work in France—in an effort to position the country as a key location for climate change, particularly in terms of financing. Last month the E.U. voted to move the European Financial Agency from London to Paris once Britain leaves the union, boosting Macron’s attempts to make the French capital a major financial center—including for climate financing.