This story has been updated.
According to news reports and people who were present Tuesday, the Syrian delegation to the talks announced the war-torn country’s intention to ratify the Paris agreement. Separately, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency, lawmakers in Damascus last month “approved a draft law on ratifying Syria’s accession to the Paris Climate Agreement.”
The move comes after the only other holdout, Nicaragua, announced plans to join the Paris agreement in September. Nicaragua initially had refused to join the agreement in 2015 because its leaders felt the accord did not go far enough in compelling nations to reduce their carbon emissions. But in joining the deal this fall, the country’s president noted that it is the “only instrument we have” to unite the world around the goal of staving off the most catastrophic effects of global warming.
“They said at the plenary that they will join Paris agreement,” said Safa’ Al Jayoussi, executive director of IndyACT, a nongovernmental organization working on climate change policies in the Arab world, of Syria.
“It only shows how urgent is the climate change solution for us in the region, with the severe drought that is hitting,” she said.
Syria’s decision to join the accord brought another round of rebukes for the Trump administration.
“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, said in a statement.
Trump in June announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the climate agreement, an extraordinary move that baffled American allies and threatened to undermine global efforts to slow the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Trump’s decision drew swift, sharp condemnation from foreign leaders, environmental groups and corporate titans, who argued that the U.S. exit from the Paris accord would represent a failure of American leadership in the face of irrefutable scientific evidence.
Trump, who has labeled climate change a “hoax” and appointed climate change skeptics to top administration posts, argued the Paris agreement and Obama-era regulations to curb emissions were crippling businesses and killing jobs.
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump proclaimed at the time. He added that he would consider rejoining the deal if the United States could reenter on more favorable terms. Other countries rejected that notion, saying individual countries already have the freedom to alter their pledges to reduce emissions.
The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement cannot actually be finalized until near the end of Trump’s term because of the legal structure and language of the accord.
The withdrawal also marked a staggering reversal from the previous administration. President Barack Obama considered the accord a signature and critical diplomatic achievement, and during his second term made it a top priority to persuade other world leaders to embrace the deal.