Trump says he's 'an environmentalist' after skipping G-7 climate meeting

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE on Monday touted his environmentalist credentials hours after skipping a Group of Seven (G-7) summit meeting focused on climate, oceans and biodiversity.

At a closing press conference before departing the summit, Trump was asked whether he still harbors skepticism about climate change. He did not directly answer, saying he is an "environmentalist" but that he is unwilling to sacrifice the country's economic success to protect the environment.

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"I’m an environmentalist. A lot of people don’t understand that," Trump said, citing his experience filing environmental impact statements for real estate developments.

"I think I know more about the environment than most people," he added. "I want clean air. I want clean water. I want a wealthy country. I want a spectacular country with jobs, with pensions, with so many things. And that’s what we’re getting."

"At the same time, it’s very important to me ... we have to maintain this incredible place that we’ve all built," Trump continued. The U.S. has "become a much richer country. And that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Because that wealth allows us to take care of people."

Earlier Monday, the president skipped a G-7 session focused on climate and sent another administration official in his place. The heads of government of the other six nations that comprise the G-7 were there.

During the climate meeting, leaders approved a $20 million aid package to help Brazil and other South American countries address fires engulfing the Amazon rainforest, French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronTrump, NATO chief to meet at White House Macron: NATO experiencing 'brain death' Man arrested in France mosque attack MORE said.

Trump has in the past characterized climate change as a hoax, mocked the idea of global warming by citing winter storms and cast doubt on government reports warning about how the changing environment might adversely affect the economy.

His administration has rolled back a number of environmental protections enacted by the Obama administration, and Trump announced shortly after taking office that he would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement that seeks to combat global emissions.

The president on Monday cited the expansion of energy exports under his administration and the opening of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as ways he has made the country more prosperous.

"I’m not going to lose that wealth," he said. "I'm not going to lose that on dreams. On windmills."