"I actually arrived back this morning at 1 o'clock from Italy, the G7 focused on the environment," Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said at Monday's Cabinet meeting.
"Our message there was that the United States is going to be focused on growth and protecting the environment. It was received well," Pruitt continued.
His assessment of the meeting raised eyebrows, as it comes less than two weeks after he and Trump announced their intention to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, a major environmental agreement negotiated under the Obama administration with nearly every country on Earth.
Pruitt's departure on Sunday was planned, his spokesman Lincoln Ferguson said, and "senior staff" at the agency would remain part of the two-day meeting, which continued on Monday.
His absence was noticed by the other G7 members, which are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Delegates "did express their disappointment and regret" with Pruitt's departure, Nick Robins, the co-director of the United Nations Environment Inquiry, told CNN.
Back at home, environmental groups criticized Pruitt's moves.
"Sending a notorious climate denier like Scott Pruitt to discuss anything related to the environment is nothing short of an insult to the other countries of the world who are acting on climate," said John Coequyt of the Sierra Club. He added the "US is increasingly isolating itself" and leaving other countries to take the lead.
Pruitt, however, said in a statement he is "resetting the dialogue" on the topic, and believes that the "Paris Agreement is not the only mechanism by which environmental stewardship can be demonstrated."
Trump cast his decision on Paris as best for the US economy. He has proposed renegotiating the deal, a concept several other countries rejected.
Monday's meetings -- which Pruitt missed -- had an economic focus. Participants discussed evidence behind a strong link "between the environment and economic health," Robins told CNN.
The seven countries issued a summary of the summit, although the US declined to sign on to sections on climate change and the Paris agreement.
While in Italy, Pruitt made stops in Rome and the Vatican. Photos he posted online show him sampling prosciutto and rolling out pasta dough.