After Nicaragua agreed to join the Paris Agreement in September, now Syria has also embraced the deal, meaning that President Trump’s US is the only country which intends to be outside of the deal.
When the Paris Agreement was agreed upon two years ago, it was a landmark achievement. Sure, some rightfully argued that perhaps the deal isn’t ambitious enough, and isn’t truly binding, but for the first time, the world’s countries agreed on a common framework to stave off man-made global warming. All countries agreed on a national contribution and quickly ratified the agreement; one year later, only two countries hadn’t ratified it: wartorn Syria and Nicaragua, whose leaders said they want something more ambitious than the current agreement.
But something unexpected happened. Under President Trump, the US, which had been one of the key supporters of such a global agreement, did a complete U-turn. Not only did Trump surround himself with climate change deniers and fossil fuel lobbyists, but he took the extra step and announced that the US will exit the Paris Agreement. The official statement was issued in October (the same month Nicaragua finally signed the agreement) saying that the US would withdraw “unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favourable for our country”. International reactions were swift and blunt, condemning Trump’s decision and explaining that all the countries in the world can’t renegotiate a global pact just because one president doesn’t like it.
It’s not like most or much of the world is against the US on this — literally, the entire world, every single country on the planet has agreed to the Paris Agreement, putting Trump’s US alone against everybody.
“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’s has isolated the United States on the world stage in an embarrassing and dangerous position,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, an environmental organization in the United States, said in a statement at the COP.
The 23rd COP (Conference of Parties) is now taking place in Bonn, Germany. Two years ago, COP21 led to the signing of the Paris Agreement. Last year, in Marrakech, the world discussed how to implement the decisions signed in Paris. This year, without a doubt, the main point of focus will be what can be done considering the current situation of the US. But notably, this year Syria also announced its intention to ratify the Paris agreement. While they have not sent the papers in, Syrian authorities have assured the UN that the country will support the environmental initiatives, to the best of its ability.
This means that technically, the deal will be ratified by all countries in the world. Despite his best efforts, Trump can’t disengage from the Agreement by himself. The earliest he can officially do that is in 2020, but the US has elections in 2020, meaning that he might not get the chance to do it at all. Still, regardless of these technicalities, the White House has made it abundantly clear that it has no interest in pursuing environmental and sustainable objectives — even if they are beneficial economically. The administration has shown that it would rather pursue dirty coal energy ahead of renewables, even if it means losing quite a lot of money and jobs in the process.
Scientists point out that with the current state of events, even if the Paris Agreement is respected, there’s a good chance the Earth might heat up by more than 2C Celsius. We need to step up implementation if we want to limit irreversible damage. Any backtrack can be devastating. We have decades of science documenting climate change and its dramatic events, it’s time for policy to follow suit. Now is the time to step up the implementation. With or without the White House, the world needs to continue.