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Syria joins Paris climate accord, leaving only US opposed

WASHINGTON — Syria announced during United Nations climate talks Tuesday that it would sign the Paris agreement on climate change. The move, which comes on the heels of Nicaragua signing the accord last month, will leave the United States as the only country that has rejected the global pact.

According to several people who were in a plenary session at the climate talks in Bonn, a Syrian delegate announced that the country was poised to send its ratification of the Paris agreement to the United Nations.

“This is the very last country that actually announced, so everyone has joined and the US is now so isolated,” said Safa Al Jayoussi, executive director of IndyACT, an environmental organization based in Lebanon that works with Arab countries on climate change.

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A White House spokeswoman, Kelly Love, pointed reporters to a statement the administration made when Nicaragua joined the pact, noting there had been no change in the United States’ position.

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“As the president previously stated, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable for our country,” the statement said.

President Trump announced in a Rose Garden speech this summer that the United States would quit the deal, calling it bad for the US economy.

The Paris agreement, struck in 2015 under Barack Obama, calls on nearly 200 countries to voluntarily curb greenhouse gas emissions. At the time, only Nicaragua and Syria did not join, for very different reasons.

Nicaraguan leaders argued that the deal did not go far enough toward keeping carbon emissions at safe levels and helping vulnerable countries protect themselves from the effects of climate change. But last month Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s president, and Rosario Murillo, his vice president and wife, said in a joint statement that the country would sign anyway. “The Paris agreement, despite not being the ideal agreement, is the only instrument that currently allows this unity of intentions and efforts,” they said.

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Syria has been mired in a civil war since 2011. And because the Syrian government is subject to European and US sanctions, its leaders were unable to send representatives abroad to negotiate or sign the pact.

It is not clear what has changed, and the Syrian delegate who spoke Tuesday did not offer an explanation for the government’s decision.