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U.S. Refusal to Join Paris Agreement

Anabell Xu, Staff Writer

Americans are quite aware of President Trump’s decision to abstain from the Paris Climate Agreement, especially due to the huge amount of controversy it spurred. But two months ago, the U.S. was not alone in its decision to leave—Syria and Nicaragua were the two other countries that did not sign the climate act. Syria was in the midst of a civil war; Nicaragua believed that the standards weren’t strict enough, and the U.S. believed it would cause harm to the economy.

Nicaragua signed the agreement on Oct. 23, with Vice President Rosario Murillo saying in an official statement that “It is the only instrument we have in the world that allows the unity of intentions and efforts to face up to climate change and natural disasters.”

For a while, it seemed that Syria and the U.S. would remain together in their abstinence. However, on Nov. 7, a Syrian delegate announced at the climate talks in Bonn, Germany, that Syria would be sending an official approval of the Paris Agreement shortly.

The Paris Agreement is rather interesting. It’s quite a rare document, due to the sheer number of countries that have ratified it. The U.S. is now the only country in the world that hasn’t agreed to join, even after Syria has. This has caused intense backlash from climate scientists around the world.

According to Paula Caballero, a climate-policy specialist at the World Resources Institute, “This should make the Trump administration pause and reflect on their ill-advised announcement about withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.”

Michael Oppenheimer, a geoscience professor at Princeton University, stated that “Syria’s participation puts an exclamation point on the fact that the U.S. actions are contrary to the political actions, and the sincerely held beliefs, of every other country on the face of the Earth.”

Individual states have taken the matter into their own hands, forming the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition of states who are committed to upholding the Paris Agreement even if the U.S. as a whole refuses to join. 14 states and one territory have joined, headed by Governor Jerry Brown of California. The 15 members constitute about 36% of the population and 22% of U.S. emission rates, meaning that even this small union will still have an impact on global emission rates, however slight.

While the White House remains adamant on staying out of the Paris Climate Agreement, even though every other country, regardless of current economic or political status, has joined, we can still fight global warming through this coalition of states. However, the question of whether the U.S. will ever join is still up in the air and will have to wait until late 2020.

Graphics courtesy of UN.ORG

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U.S. Refusal to Join Paris Agreement