News broke Wednesday that President Trump is nearing a decision about whether to yank the United States from the Paris climate agreement.
The news unleashed a backlash on Twitter among some politicians and pundits, who framed the supposed recklessness of a withdrawal by highlighting the two other countries whose leadership refused to sign the accord: Syria and Nicaragua.
The message was clear: The United States — once a world leader that sat at the front of the class — has relegated itself to the back of the room with the world’s perceived outliers.
“Nice company,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Elite club,” another chimed. “#Shameful.”
“If joining Ortega & Assad, Trump is in very bad company,” political pundit Ana Navarro said.
If this happens, we will join Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not party to the Paris Accord. https://t.co/eGDMAcFVDV
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) May 31, 2017
We’d join Syria&Nicaragua! Really!? If US left climate agreement, we’d be 1of 3 countries in world not participating https://t.co/jAoOS0oq2u
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) June 1, 2017
Syria, Nicaragua, and the United States of America. Astonishing. https://t.co/KnAY0IqcPh
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) May 31, 2017
It’s not true that the U.S. will stand alone in rejecting the Paris agreement.
We’ll be joining Syria and Nicaragua.
— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) May 31, 2017
The problem with the comparison, and the implicit developed world condescension it contains, is the glaring absence of context.
Syria didn’t sign the agreement because the country remains locked in a protracted civil war that the United Nations estimates may have displaced 12 million people and resulted in more than 250,000 deaths.
Nicaraguan leaders said they declined to enter the agreement not because they didn’t want to abide by new emissions standards, but because those standards weren’t strict enough and didn’t require enough sacrifice from wealthier countries with larger economies, according to Reuters.
At a U.N. climate meeting last year, Paul Oquist, head of the Nicaraguan delegation, also complained about the agreement restricting his country’s ability to litigate over climate disagreements.
“Nor is it either ethical or congruent to invoke human rights in the Agreement and at the same time to ask developing countries to renounce their legal rights including the right to compensation for damages and the right to litigate over legal responsibilities,” Oquist said.
Syria and Nicaragua are the only nations that didn’t sign the Paris Agreement. Nicaragua said it wasn’t tough enough. What’s Trump’s excuse?
— D Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) June 1, 2017
Meanwhile, the Central American nation of 6 million is en route to becoming a “green energy powerhouse,” according to NPR.
Blessed with 19 volcanoes, high winds and plenty of water, Nicaragua, for more than a decade, has been gradually transforming its economy to try to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil, NPR reported. That dependence meant that market fluctuations led to 12-hour blackouts that paralyzed the country and brought the economy to a halt.
“The decision was made that we had to begin shifting toward renewable energy,” Gabriel Sánchez, who works for the business promotion agency ProNicaragua told NPR. “A set of policies was put in place that would allow renewable energy projects to be developed in Nicaragua.”
By 2015, renewables were generating about half of Nicaragua’s electricity, but government officials say that number is on track to reach 90 percent by 2020, according to the World Bank. Renewables constitute 13 percent of the United State’s energy production.
“In the region, Nicaragua is second only to Costa Rica in terms of the share — 21 percent — of renewable, non-hydraulic energy in the region,” the Bank reported. “The energy output of its geothermic resources is considered the best in Central America.”
As The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis reported Wednesday, “more than 190 nations agreed to the accord in December 2015 in Paris, and 147 have since formally ratified or otherwise joined it, including the United States — representing more than 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
“A U.S. withdrawal would remove the world’s second-largest emitter and nearly 18 percent of the globe’s present-day emissions from the agreement, presenting a severe challenge to its structure and raising questions about whether it would weaken the commitments of other nations,” Mooney and Dennis reported.
— IRENA (@IRENA) July 9, 2015
At last year’s meeting, Oquist called upon developed countries to increase “their levels of ambition” for mitigating climate change for “future generations, Mother Earth and life itself.”
“Nicaragua will not sign the Paris Agreement and hopes that other countries will put pressure on the developed countries to increase their levels of ambition to avoid a world of 3°C which will lead to disastrous increases of 4°C to 6°C in developing countries,” he added. “This must be NOW, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, since 2025 the Paris Agreement target is too late.”
Only Nicaragua (out of protest) and Syria (a failed state) are not a party to the Paris climate agreement.
Even North Korea is a signatory.
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) May 31, 2017