In December, if they accept the invitation of the President of France, leaders of 100 countries will descend on Paris to ramp up the global fight against climate change. But in a striking omission, one major name is not on the list: U.S. President Donald Trump. When TIME sat down with President Emmanuel Macron in the Élysée Palace on Nov. 7, he said the U.S. leader would not be among the guests at his Dec. 12 summit, “except if you get this big announcement coming from himself that he has decided to join the club.”
The “club,” of course, comprises every other country on the planet, now that even Syria has pledged to join the Paris Agreement on climate change, which was negotiated in the French capital in 2015 to drastically rein in carbon emissions and stave off disastrous global warming. Since Trump alone has rejected the agreement and vowed to cancel the U.S.’s climate commitments, much of the responsibility for leading this club has fallen to an erudite young Frenchman who has only just begun his career as an elected politician. Climate change is the most global of all the world’s problems, but it is hardly the only one: there are nuclear threats, far-right nationalism, jihadi terrorism and technological disruption. For all those, too, the French President is eager to discuss what his country can offer. And although he says he’s not seeking to become the leader of the free world, he can sound like he is.”Today, de facto, we are part of the global leadership on climate change,” he says, speaking in his excellent English, a very rare thing for French leaders. “I want us to be part of the global leadership on the economy and on finance, on the digital environment. I think we have a very important leadership to play on multilateralism.”
Read TIME’s full interview with President Emmanuel Macron here.
This appears in the November 20, 2017 issue of TIME.