"Punishing Americans is never the right way to produce a better environment or a better economy", he said.
"President Trump has a political problem, one that he created and certainly didn't solve by today's surreal press event,", according to Joe Bonfiglio, the president of EDF Action, which is the lobbying arm of the Environmental Defense Fund. The US president, who has called climate change a Chinese hoax, dismissed a report previous year by his own government warning of massive economic losses should carbon emissions continue to feed climate change unchecked.
U.S. greenhouse emissions grew 3.4 per cent in 2018, the largest increase in eight years, and Trump scrapped predecessor Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which set a goal of reducing emissions 32 per cent by 2030, taking the 2005 level as a baseline.
"It is absurd for President Trump to claim any environmental credentials when his administration continues to drive a destructive pro-polluter agenda at the expense of the American people", said Ms Jill Tauber, vice-president of litigation, climate and energy at Earthjustice, which has filed 120 lawsuits against the administration.
Trump criticized a climate resolution many Democrats have embraced, alleging the Green New Deal would kill jobs and cost the economy trillions.
"Donald Trump is resorting to greenhouse gaslighting the public to try and cover up the fact that he is the worst president in history for the environment, climate and public health", said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. He claimed it would cost the economy almost $100 trillion dollars, though there is no way to know if that is true.
Trump told a crowd of invited guests at the White House that "a lot of tremendous things are happening", but critics said his environmental agenda is more harmful than helpful.
Those who made the list include Trump pundit Bill Mitchell, Ryan Fournier, the 23-year-old chairman of grassroots group Students for Trump and Charlie Kirk, the founder of conservative student group Turning Point USA.
The president cited a provision of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade - replacing NAFTA - addressing the problem of plastic waste in the world's oceans as an example of Washington's leadership on the environment. "Period", said Tiernan Sittenfeld, the League of Conservation Voters' senior vice president of governmental affairs.
Trump then called up the owner of a Florida bait-and-tackle shop who lauded the Everglades efforts, and he ended his talk with a shout of "Trump 2020!" "As Trump gives away our public lands and guts safeguards for endangered wildlife, most Americans see how much damage he's causing to our children's future". "The Trump administration's record on the environment is beyond dismal and voters know it". The Trump administration has also sought to relax rules on methane emissions, off-shore oil drilling safety and auto emissions.
Wheeler also said US carbon emissions had dropped since 2005.