U.S. and Syria are now the only nations that don’t support the Paris climate agreement

Nicaragua has decided to join. And then there were two.

Nicaragua's first photovoltaic park. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Nicaragua's first photovoltaic park. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Nicaragua announced Wednesday its intention to join the Paris climate agreement, leaving the United States and Syria as the only two countries that do not support the accord.

According to a report from a Managua-based television station 100% Noticias, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said his country plans to sign on to the agreement “soon,” though he did not provide a specific timetable on joining or ratifying the agreement to limit global temperature rise to 2° Celsius. Nicaragua had previously declined to join the agreement because it felt that it did not go far enough to curb emissions and did not require enough financial help from wealthy, developed nations for climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.

Despite refusing to sign on to the agreement, Nicaragua has demonstrated a deep commitment to renewable energy. Since 2005, the country has switched from being almost entirely dependent on imported fossil fuels to generating more than half of its electricity from renewable sources. And the country expects that number to climb higher, with a goal of producing 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Technically, if and when Nicaragua joins the agreement, Syria — which is currently embroiled in a civil war — will be the only nation in the world to not be party to the agreement. President Trump has signaled his intention to withdraw the United States from the agreement, but there can be no action on that promise until November 4, 2020. Trump officially filed notice of his intent to withdraw the United States from the agreement in August, though such a document does not carry any legal weight, since according to the terms of the agreement no country can begin the withdrawal process until three years after the agreement has entered into force.

The agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016, just days before the United States presidential election. To enter into force, the accord needed 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions to officially ratify the treaty. As of Wednesday, 164 out of the 197 participating countries had officially ratified the agreement.

In direct contrast to Ortega’s contention that the Paris Agreement fails to hold developed countries accountable for their pollution, the Trump administration has argued that the agreement places too much burden on the United States and does not require enough from big developing countries like China or India. In fact, the agreement is based on a compilation of independent targets created by each participating nation, and the U.S. Climate Action tracker — which rates the various goals of each participating  nation — had previously rated the U.S. goal as relatively weak, saying that it was “not yet consistent with limiting warming to below 2°C.” Following Trump’s announcement that he would withdraw from the agreement, however, Climate Action Tracker changed their analysis of U.S. goals to “critically insufficient.”

Rejection of the Paris Agreement is not the only way in which Trump breaks with the majority of the world on climate; according to a Sierra Club survey released last year, Trump is the only world leader who rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. He has also filled his cabinet with climate deniers, from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.