This week, Nicaragua, one of the few holdouts from the Paris climate accords, did an about-face and said it will sign the agreement.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announced that the Central American nation of 6 million people ― about the size of Maryland ― would sign the landmark pact voluntarily committing nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to El Nuevo Diario, one of the nation’s major newspapers.
After President Obama, who orchestrated the pact bringing together more than 190 nations, only two nations had yet to sign the agreement in April of this year.
One was Syria, which was and still is in the middle of a bloody civil war. The other was Nicaragua, which attended 2015 talks but refused to sign the accord.
President Trump announced his intent to make the United States the third nonparticipant in the pact because of, as he said in a speech in June, “the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”
But Nicaragua declined to participate not because its leaders thought the agreement went against its national interests. Instead, they felt the agreement did not go far enough.
“We’re not going to submit because voluntary responsibility is a path to failure,” Paul Oquist, Nicaragua’s climate envoy, said during the Paris talks in 2015. Nicaragua argued that rich countries should pay more to mitigate global warming because they were largely responsible for it.
As a developing nation, Nicaragua produces only a fraction of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But the country, economically dependent on agriculture and in the path of Atlantic hurricanes, is ranked the fourth-most vulnerable to climate change in the world, according to the 2017 Global Climate Risk Index.
When making his announcement, Ortega this week struck a note of solidarity with other poorer regions affected by a changing climate.
“We have to be in solidarity with this large number of countries that are the first victims, that are already the victims and are the ones that will continue to suffer the impact of these disasters and that are countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, of the Caribbean, which are in highly vulnerable areas,” Ortega said, according to the Nicaraguan newspaper.
As the United Nations General Assembly met this week, Trump administration officials reiterated the U.S. commitment to leaving the Paris deal unless, as the president said in June without defining what fairness meant, “we can make a deal that’s fair.”
“The president decided to pull out of the Paris accord because it's a bad deal for the American people and it's a bad deal for the environment,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on Sunday before the U.N. gathering. Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, carried that message to foreign counterparts in New York later in the week.
Nicaragua’s decision is far from likely to change minds in the White House, which has withstood lobbying from the leaders of France and elsewhere to reconsider.
But according to Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute who was a senior climate adviser at Obama’s State Department, Nicaragua’s decision after the U.N. meeting is “further demonstration that the administration is isolated on this issue.”
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