Paris Agreement on Climate Change: Why Didn’t Syria & Nicaragua Join?

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President Donald Trump. (Getty)

While President Donald Trump has the Twitter universe obsessed with his “cofeve” spelling mistake, it’s been reported that he will withdraw the U.S. from the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The agreement, which was negotiated in December 2015, was signed by 195 countries with just two members of the United Nations not signing. Those two are Nicaragua and Syria. If Trump does indeed pull out, he would make the U.S. the third.

Trump’s decision was first reported by Axios, although Trump himself has yet to announce it. “I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN,” Trump wrote on Twitter. On May 27, as he was leaving the G7 summit, Trump added, “I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!”

The other six G7 leaders tried to convince Trump to make a decision to stay, but Trump held off. The Financial Times notes that other countries have started reconsidering it, especially the 48 signatories who haven’t ratified it yet. Although others might take the opportunity to become leaders in climate change if the wealthiest nation on earth is no longer involved in the agreement.

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Again, the U.S. isn’t alone in rejecting the deal, although it’s notable that even isolated North Korea signed on. There are just two countries that rejected it and both have different reasons. You can read the full text of the agreement here.


Nicaragua Didn’t Think the Agreement Went Far Enough

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Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in 2012. (Getty)

In the agreement, the countries that signed on agreed to limit global warming to less and 2 degrees Celsius when compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement notes that the counties will make an effort to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” The agreement is still not binding because the 55 parties who create a combined 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gasses have not ratified it.

Nicaragua’s representative to the Paris talks at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Dr. Paul Oquist, didn’t think the agreement went far enough. The Central American country earned international attention for Quist’s position, but it didn’t stop the talks. As the Financial Times notes, Nicaragua is responsible for just 0.03 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

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“We’re not going to submit because voluntary responsibilities is a path to failure,” Quist said at the time, reports TelesurTV. “It’s a failed mechanism that’s leading us down the road to 3 degrees Celsius, 4 degrees Celsius, 5 degrees Celsius. It’s a mechanism to let the target float. It’s like if you have a fixed interest rate and a floating interest rate and this will float according to whatever comes out of the INDCs. We don’t want to be accomplices to taking the world to 3 degrees Celsius to 4 degrees Celsius and the death and destruction that that represents.”

TelesurTV notes that the Nicaraguan government also criticized the agreement for not including the creation of a binding US$100 billion fund from wealthy countries to help poorer countries reach established goals.

“The government and people of Nicaragua hope that from the Paris COP21 Conference will emerge a commitment to climate justice along with an indispensable indemnification policy, converted into direct and unconditional cooperation,” Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega told the UN General Assembly in 2014. “Those responsible for the emissions, and responsible for the climate depredation, degradation and dislocation must recognize our losses and contribute to recovery so as to reinstate the right to health and to life of our Mother Earth and of the peoples of the world.”

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EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. (Getty)

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This is far different from the reason why the U.S. would leave the deal. Back in March 28, he signed an executive order that rolled back many of President Obama’s climate change policies. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and 21 other Republican senators sent a letter to Trump on May 25, asking him to pull out of the deal.

“Paris is something that we need to really look at closely. It’s something we need to exit in my opinion,” Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, said on Fox & Friends in April. “It’s a bad deal for America. It was an America second, third, or fourth kind of approach. China and India had no obligations under the agreement until 2030. We front-loaded all of our costs.”

(The Washington Post notes that Pruitt’s claim about China and India’s obligations is incorrect. The two countries are already taking steps to reach their goals by 2030.)

Leaving the Paris Agreement would take four years, but Reuters reported in November that Trump would try to find the quickest way to leave. The Guardian notes that Trump could leave the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to exit the pact within a year.


Syria Is in the Middle of a Civil War

Syria is the only other UN-member country not to sign the agreement. The country has not been able to sign the agreement since it is still in an ongoing civil war. The war began in 2011, with rebels trying to push out President Bashal Al-Assad out of power. Territory has been split up between the government, the opposition and the Islamic State (ISIS).

According to USAID, Syria’s greenhouse gas emissions jumped 77 percent between 1990 and 2007. In 2011, the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions were 88.19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), making up 0.19 percent of global emissions for that year.