Syria plans to join Paris climate agreement, leaving US in isolation

BONN, Germany, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Syria said on Tuesday that it intends to join the 2015 Paris agreement for slowing climate change, isolating the United States as the only country opposed to the pact.

Syria, racked by civil war, and Nicaragua were the only two nations outside the 195-nation pact when it was agreed in 2015. Nicaragua's left-wing government, which originally denounced the plan as too weak, signed up last month.

"I would like to affirm the Syrian Arab Republic's commitment to the Paris climate change accord," deputy Environment Minister Wadah Katmawi told a meeting of almost 200 nations at Nov. 6-17 climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

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WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Vice President Mike Pence clap as President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump refers to amounts of temperature change as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon walks out after President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump points as he walks back to the Oval Office after speaking about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump points out after speaking about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Membership for Syria under President Bashar al-Assad would isolate the United States, the world's biggest economy and second largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China, as the only nation opposed to the accord.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has expressed doubts that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are the prime cause of global warming, announced in June that he intended to pull out and instead promote U.S. coal and oil industries.

"We need everybody on board," Ronald Jumeau, of the Seychelles, told Reuters. "We want the United States in too. We take no pleasure in the United States being out."

The United Nations welcomed Syria's statement as a declaration of intent to adhere to the Paris pact. But it said Damascus had not yet filed any of the official documents to sign up.

Sarah Baashan, a Saudi diplomat chairing the meeting at which Syria spoke, told the session that she welcomed the "good news." There was no applause, however, at a conference where Assad's government has few allies.

"Syria's decision shows the breadth of support for the Paris agreement," Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Reuters.

Meyer said businesses, mayors, cities and other groups were also stepping up actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions that scientists link to more droughts, heat waves, floods and rising sea levels.

Washington still has a seat at the table in Bonn because the rules mean a formal pullout can only take effect in 2020. Many delegates said they hoped Trump would reconsider.

David Waskow, of the World Resources Institute think-tank, noted that Trump's climate views had previously isolated him from other leading economies in the Group of Seven and the Group of 20.

"Now he'll be isolated from all nations," he said.

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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the climate agreement at the White House in Washington, December 12, 2015. The global climate summit in Paris agreed a landmark accord on Saturday, setting the course for a historic transformation of the world's fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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U.S. President Barack Obama walks in the main conference hall during the opening ceremony of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
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Trump has said he will pull out of the Paris agreement unless Washington can secure more favorable terms for American businesses and taxpayers.

But he has been vague about what that means, especially since the pact gives all nations power to set their own goals.

Overall, the Paris agreement seeks to limit a rise in temperatures to "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, ideally 1.5.

The U.N.'s weather agency said on Monday that this year is on track to be the second or third warmest since records began in the 19th century, behind a record-breaking 2016, and about 1.1 Celsius (2F) above pre-industrial times.

The Bonn meeting is seeking to write a detailed "rule book" for the Paris agreement, including details of how to report and check all nations' greenhouse gas emissions. (Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by Richard Balmforth)

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