Syria plans to sign the Paris climate agreement, a Syrian official announced Tuesday at a climate conference in Germany, joining 194 other countries in backing the historic accord to curb global warming.
That leaves just one country in the world that is rejecting the deal: the United States.
Syria’s government has already started the process of ratifying the agreement, the Syrian official said at the conference in Bonn. BuzzFeed News confirmed the announcement with Cynthia Elliott, a climate expert at the nonprofit World Resources Institute, who was in the room.
Climate experts are praising Syria’s move and calling on President Donald Trump to reconsider his controversial decision in June to withdraw the US from the agreement.
“With Syria on board, now the entire world is resolutely committed to advancing climate action — all save one country,” Paula Caballero, global director of WRI’s Climate Program, said in a statement. “This should make the Trump administration pause and reflect on their ill-advised announcement about withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.”
"With Syria announcing its intention to join the Paris Agreement, President Trump finds himself in not-so-splendid isolation with his irresponsible and ignorant decision to withdraw the United States from Paris,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told BuzzFeed News by email.
An increasing number of Americans are pushing back against Trump’s decision, setting emissions goals and climate policies at the local level, Meyer added. “Meanwhile, the groundswell of climate action by governors, mayors, companies, and others is giving other countries assurance that President Trump doesn't speak for most Americans on this issue.”
At his June withdrawal announcement from the White House Rose Garden, Trump called the Paris agreement “a deal that punishes the United States,” because it would hurt the US economy. He said the US will not stay in unless it can negotiate better terms.
At the time, only two countries had not signed the agreement: Nicaragua, which had criticized the accord for not being ambitious enough, and Syria, which is caught up in a deadly civil war. But Nicaragua ratified it in October, and Syria is now planning to follow.
Responding to Syria’s recent announcement, the White House has said its position on the agreement remains unchanged.
“There has been no change in the United States position on the Paris agreement,” spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement emailed to BuzzFeed News. "As the President previously stated, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms more favorable for our country."
The other countries in the agreement have rejected the possibility of renegotiating the agreement as a whole. But climate experts point out that the US already has the power to change its climate goals if it wants: Every country in the agreement sets its own voluntary goals for reducing climate pollution.
Under the Obama administration, the US had vowed to bring down its greenhouse gas emissions 26–28% by 2025 compared to 2005 levels.
Because the US already ratified the agreement under Obama, the earliest it could formally pull out is November 2020.
Until then, the Trump administration, which is skeptical of climate science, is continuing to quietly participate in global climate talks. It sent 48 people to the Bonn conference to help develop the rules for the agreement, down from 90 who attended the same meeting last year.
Zahra Hirji is a science reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC
Contact Zahra Hirji at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.