Syria to Join Paris Climate Pact, Leaving U.S. Isolated

Despite a pending withdrawal, U.S. states, nonprofits, and businesses have declared allegiance to the agreement's emissions-limiting goals.

Syria, a nation racked by civil war, has vowed to join a global initiative to curb climate change. Now, the only country outside that agreement is the U.S.

War-torn Syria announced it would sign the Paris Agreement on November 7 at the COP23 UN Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany. The 2015 agreement restricts global temperature increases by 2 degrees Celsius, and it implements efforts to limit increases after that to 1.5 degrees. Syria, which has been engaged in armed conflict since anti-government protests turned the country in on itself in 2012, held off on committing to the non-binding pact due to internal strife.

Nicaragua signed the agreement in late October, but President Trump announced in June his plans to withdraw from it, citing concerns it would harm American workers and taxpayers.

Environmental journalist Stephen Leahy, who is following the conference, told National Geographic in an email that U.S. cities and states, along with universities and NGOs, have rented a space outside the conference to reassure masses they're still committed to the goals of the agreement.

"U.S. folks and allies plan to hold a big march in Bonn on Saturday to shout: 'We're still in!'" Leahy wrote in an email. He added the demonstrators are restating actions they're taking for the Paris Agreement and "that Trump is an aberration."

Since Trump's announcement, states and cities across the U.S. have declared their unofficial support for the Paris Agreement. As of June, 10 states and the District of Columbia pledged to follow the Paris Agreement, while several states joined the U.S. Climate Alliance and hundreds of cities signed the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda to lower emissions locally. Logistics say the U.S. can’t officially withdraw from the agreement until November 2020.

A supercell thunderstorm strikes in South Dakota. Among the most severe storms, supercells can bring strong winds, hail, and even tornadoes. (See more extreme weather pictures.)

Lightning Strikes

A supercell thunderstorm strikes in South Dakota. Among the most severe storms, supercells can bring strong winds, hail, and even tornadoes. (See more extreme weather pictures.)
Photograph by Jim Reed, National Geographic

According to Conservation International: "With nearly every country in the world now on board, it also sends a strong signal to the communities, companies, and citizens of the United States that we have both the right and responsibility to act on climate change."

Michael Greshko contributed reporting to this story.

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