Fiona Harvey in Bonn
Tuesday 7 November 2017 18.06 GMT
Syria has decided to sign the Paris agreement on climate change, the world’s final functioning state to do so. The surprise decision, taken amid a brutal civil war in the country, will leave the US as the only country outside the agreement if it follows through on President Donald Trump’s vow to leave.
Syria’s decision brings to 197 the number of nations signed up to the landmark 2015 pact on global warming, the first in more than 20 years of UN negotiations to bind both developed and developing countries to a clear limit on temperature rises.
President Barack Obama signed the accord and it was ratified before his term of office ended, but this summer Donald Trump began the process of withdrawing from it. Withdrawal will take several years under UN rules, so the US officially remains a party until 4 November 2020, the day after its next presidential election. The US is the only country to renege on the agreement.
Civil society groups said the US, the world’s largest economy and second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, was now isolated on the world stage.
Paula Caballero, global director of the climate programme at the World Resources Institute, said: “Now the entire world is resolutely committed to advancing climate action – all save one country. This should make the Trump administration pause and reflect on their ill-advised announcement about withdrawing from the Paris agreement.”
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club environmental group, said: “As if it wasn’t already crystal clear, every single other country is moving forward together to tackle the climate crisis, while Trump has isolated the US in an embarrassing and dangerous position. Trump’s desperate moves to help corporate polluters by refusing to acknowledge the climate crisis shows he neither cares about leadership nor does he understand it.”
Observers said that although the White House could withdraw the federal government from the pact, cities and states in the US would continue to take action on climate change, for instance by investing in renewable energy.
The French government, according to reports, said Trump had been excluded from the invitations to more than 100 world leaders to meet in Paris for a climate conference next month, to follow on from the Paris agreement.
The US delegation in Bonn, where two weeks of UN climate negotiations are in their second day, did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.