The Syrian Arab Republic announced on the second day of the COP23 meeting in Bonn, Germany that it would sign the Paris agreement on halting global warming and carbon emissions.
Out of 197 parties in the United Nations, 196 signed the Paris agreement before Syria’s announcement at the conference of parties on Tuesday, making it the fastest international treaty to enter into force.
Due to the country’s ongoing civil war, Syria had not committed to signing the Paris Agreement until now.
Experts believe that the move demonstrates – if only metaphorically – a clearer commitment within the global community to tackle climate change.
“The assessment of the impact of a commitment such as the Paris accord on the economy of a country at war takes time,” a negotiator close to the Syrian delegation told The Globe Post. “The decision whether or not to join the agreement and its impacts were being discussed in recent months.”
He added that ‘partners’ convinced Syria that this was the best way forward, but declined to say whether it was Russia, Syria’s close ally. Two aides to the Russian COP23 delegation have refused comment.
“I believe Syria signing the Paris agreement is a major step in forming a strong ambitious alliance towards climate action even though Syria will not be able to contribute that much since it has to rebuild its country and finalizing the war,” Arthur Wyns, Campaign Manager for the environmental NGO Climate Tracker told The Globe Post.
“It is still a very big symbolic step that the whole world is united in dealing with this issue and undermines Trump’s position.”
In June President Donald Trump said the United States would withdraw from the agreement, although that decision will not take effect until 2020 due to the nature of the deal.
According to AFP, a French delegate aide said during a COP23 conference on Tuesday that the Mr. Trump is not among the around 100 heads of state and government invited to the upcoming climate summit in Paris, although a U.S. government delegation is expected to attend.
Another observing member at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change told The Globe Post, “We should celebrate that the U.S. is being completely isolated, and the Syrian delegation made the right choice. We should, however, not glorify the Syrian delegation because they still represent al-Assad.”
The observer asked to remain anonymous to discuss sensitive issues.
Climate activists from the Middle East believe that the gesture should be celebrated for uniting the region on at least one issue and making negotiations easier.
“Climate change may now be the one thing that all of Middle East has a common agenda on and – it may sound hopeful – but it is the most probably opportunity to promote any kind of unity in the region,” Ali Ahmed, a climate activist and writer based in Sudan, told The Globe Post.
“However, member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council must follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead in terms of having ambition when it comes to long-term goals – particularly Saudi Arabia.”
He added that because climate change is especially going to impact the Middle East due to its geographical location, he is hopeful that leaders will understand that collaborative action will be needed to prevent future conflicts over land and natural resources and ensure a sustainable future for a region where more than half the population is very young.
“We should celebrate Syria’s signing because it brings the Arab world together but also remember that it is signed by al-Assad who is not a good person and we should not glorify the delegation,” Lina Yassin, a climate activist and writer who’s currently at COP working on climate issues in the Arab world, told The Globe Post.