At the COP23 United Nations climate summit in Bonn, Germany on Tuesday, war-torn Syria announced that it would sign on to the Paris agreement, leaving the United States—after President Donald withdrew his support earlier this year—as the only nation on planet Earth to oppose the international accord opponent.
"As if it wasn't already crystal clear, every single other country in the world is moving forward together to tackle the climate crisis, while Donald Trump has isolated the United States on the world stage in an embarrassing and dangerous position," said Sierra Club president Michael Brune, following the announcement. "Trump's desperate moves to help corporate polluters by refusing to acknowledge the reality of the climate crisis shows that he neither cares about leadership nor does he understand it."
The delegate who made the announcement for the Middle Eastern country, which is still consumed by a six-year civil war, did not offer an explanation for the policy shift, according to the New York Times. Various environmental groups and activists celebrated the news, but also emphasized the importance of maintaining pressure on Trump and his administration, with the World Resource Institute (WRI) labeling the U.S. a #climateloner on Twitter.
— World Resources Inst (@WorldResources) November 7, 2017
In late 2015, nearly 200 nations—including the United States, under former President Barack Obama—agreed to the carbon-cutting Paris accord. In June 2017, Trump revealed he planned to withdraw from it (although the U.S. cannot formally ditch the deal until 2020). Just last month, Nicaragua announced it would sign on to the agreement, leaving only Syria and the United States opposed. Syria's announcement on Tuesday means the U.S.—currently the second-biggest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions—is the only holdout.
"Syria's announcement that it will join the Paris agreement leaves President Trump in not-so-splendid isolation as a result of his irresponsible and ignorant decision to withdraw the United States from the most comprehensive effort ever to confront the mounting climate crisis," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and an expert on the UN's international climate negotiations process. Meyer is currently at COP23.
"With Syria's decision, the relentless commitment of the global community to deliver on Paris is more evident than ever," Paula Caballero, WRI's director of the climate change program, told the Times. "The U.S.'s stark isolation should give Trump reason to reconsider his ill-advised announcement and join the rest of the world in tackling climate change."
"It's almost impossible to pick the most embarrassing action by President Trump since he took office: There are simply too many choose from," said Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook. "But his decision to pull the U.S. out of the climate pact is certainly near the top. A year ago, the country was leading the effort to combat climate change, but now with Trump in charge, we're the only nation on the planet fleeing from the fight."
Environmental activists, climate experts, journalists, politicians, and others quickly weighed in on Twitter.
— Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) November 7, 2017
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True American exceptionalism. Now that Syria has endorsed the Paris accord, we're the only holdout against physics https://t.co/IW9vwsoVF1
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) November 7, 2017
— Arthur Wyns (@ArthurWyns) November 7, 2017
Syria, that Syria, just took the moral high ground and isolated the US https://t.co/dRap3WivA2
— David Dayen (@ddayen) November 7, 2017
Syria has now joined the Paris Climate Agreement leaving the U.S. as the only country that's rejected it.
This is embarrassing.
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) November 7, 2017
At what point should we start referring to the US under Trump as an aspiring petrostate? https://t.co/OyRZPSDYA7
— Kate Aronoff (@KateAronoff) November 7, 2017