Syria to join Paris climate accord, leaving U.S. isolated

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Syria, which is engulfed in a six-year-long civil war, announced Tuesday that it is ready to join the Paris climate deal, leaving the United States as the only country in the world which does not support the agreement.

Syria’s deputy minister for environment, Wadah Katmawi, told a meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, that the war-torn nation had decided to back the international accord. To make their adherence official, Syria will have to submit a signed letter to the United Nations in New York.

“We emphasize the importance of developed countries, as the main contributor to climate change, to follow through with their humanitarian and legal responsibility towards the developing world to provide technical and economic support to employ measures to safeguard against climate change and provide healthy and environmentally friendly technology,” Katmawi said.

Syria’s share of global emissions is estimated to be just 0.14 percent, compared to 21.97 percent for China and 13.19 percent for the United States.

Tuesday’s announcement came just over two weeks after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife officially signed the Paris climate deal. Nicaragua, which ranks as one of the countries most affected by climate change, had previously rejected the accord as insufficient to stop climate change.

Syria’s decision to join the global accord leaves the United States as the only country in the world which does not support the agreement. The only exception is the Vatican, which wants to sign the deal but can’t unless it joins the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The U.S. signed the agreement in April 2016 under the administration of Barack Obama, but President Donald Trump announced in June that the U.S. will withdraw, calling the deal “very unfair” to the United States. He also said the U.S. would no longer contribute to the Green Climate Fund.

Last month, after Caribbean countries were hit by two powerful hurricanes, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the international community to implement the Paris climate deal with “greater ambition.”

“We know that the world has the tools, the technologies and the wealth to address climate change, but we must show more determination in moving towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future,” Guterres said, adding that he plans to convene a Climate Summit in 2019.

The Paris Agreement aims to keep global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius, which experts say would already have a significant effect across the world. But experts say the measures in the Paris Agreement are insufficient and countries who fail to fulfill their commitments are not penalized.

The World Meteorological Organization said last week that the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere surged at a record-breaking speed last year, reaching the highest level in about 800,000 years, fueled by a combination of human activities and a strong El Niño event.

“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet.”

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