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Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde June 1, 2017

Are Nicaragua and Syria the only countries not to sign Paris Agreement?

Just a few hours before President Donald Trump was set to announce whether he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz questioned the president’s reported intent to walk away from the accord.

"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?" the representative from Florida tweeted June 1.

Trump’s promise to "cancel" the Paris Agreement is one of more than 100 promises we are tracking on the Trump-O-Meter.

News outlets reported that Trump was leaning toward exiting the global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global average temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius.

Wasserman Schultz tweet left us wondering if she was right about only two nations — Syria and Nicaragua — not signing the agreement, and that the Central American nation refused to sign because the agreement "wasn’t tough enough." Information from the United Nations and statements by Nicaraguan representatives support her statement.  

The Paris Agreement

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992 and entered into force in 1994. It consists of 197 Parties (196 States and 1 regional economic integration organization). Among them are the United States, Syria and Nicaragua.

The UNFCCC’s ultimate goal is "preventing ‘dangerous’ human interference with the climate system," that includes greenhouse gas concentrations, according to the UNFCCC’s website.

Parties to the UNFCCC during a December 2015 session in Paris adopted the Paris Agreement, seeking "to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change." One of the objectives is to hold the increase in global average temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

A total of 175 parties signed the agreement on April 22, 2016, according to information from the UN. The agreement remained opened for signatures from April 22, 2016, to April 21, 2017. The latest nation to sign was Uzbekistan, on April 19.

Overall total signatories: 195

The only countries in the world that did not sign: Syria and Nicaragua. 

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The Paris Agreement came into effect in November 2016 after 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions formally ratified the agreement. So far, 147 parties have ratified the agreement.

Wasserman Schultz office referred us to several news reports indicating that if the United States abandons the Paris agreement, it would join Syria and Nicaragua as nonparticipants.

Reuters in December 2015 reported that Nicaragua objected to the climate agreement "saying it did not do enough to protect ‘Mother Earth,’ in a symbolic protest after the deal had been formally adopted."

The news agency noted that Paul Oquist, head of the Nicaraguan delegation at the December 2015 session, said wealthy nations should do more to reduce their emissions. Nicaragua also had said developed nations were "not doing enough to reduce their use of carbon and are not providing sufficient funding to help the developed world adapt to the impact of climate change," Reuters reported.

"We’re not going to submit because voluntary responsibility is a path to failure," Oquist told Climate Home in 2015, a media organization covering climate news. He added: "It’s a not a matter of being troublemakers, it’s a matter of the developing countries surviving."

In September 2016, a Spanish-language post by the United Nations also said that the Nicaraguan vice president, Moisés Omar Halleslevens Acevedo, had reiterated his nation’s concerns on global warming but did not believe the Paris Agreement would prevent the worsening of the global issue.

"Many of us concur that what was agreed in Paris is not sufficient," and more ambitious actions are urgent, Halleslevens Acevedo told the UN General Assembly in September 2016.

Nicaraguan media have also reported that Nicaragua’s absence from the agreement is due to its concerns over the agreement, not out of lack of concern for climate change.

Amid a civil war since 2011, Syria’s participation in the agreement has been difficult because members of the Syrian government are subject to European and American sanctions.

Our ruling

Wasserman Schultz tweeted, "Syria and Nicaragua are the only nations that didn't sign the Paris Agreement. Nicaragua said it wasn't tough enough."

A total 195 of the 197 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed the Paris Agreement. That includes all the countries in the world, except Syria and Nicaragua.

Nicaraguan representatives have said the Paris Agreement is "not sufficient" and believe rich nations should do more to reduce their emissions.

We rate Wasserman Schultz’ claim True.

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"Syria and Nicaragua are the only nations that didn't sign the Paris Agreement. Nicaragua said it wasn't tough enough."
in a tweet
Thursday, June 1, 2017

Our Sources

Twitter, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz tweet, June 1, 2017

Washington Post, Why Nicaragua and Syria didn’t join the Paris climate accord, May 31, 2017

Reuters, CLIMATE BRIEF-Nicaragua makes symbolic protest over new climate deal, Dec. 12, 2015

New York Times, World Awaits Trump Decision on U.S. Future in Paris Accord, May 31, 2017

Centro de Noticias ONU, Nicaragua advierte que el Acuerdo de París no evitará el deterioro porque no es vinculante, Sept. 23, 2016

Washington Post, Don’t compare Trump’s Paris decision to Nicaragua’s; they’ve embraced renewable energy, June 1, 2017

Time, Nicaragua Didn't Sign the Paris Agreement Because It Didn't Go Far Enough, May 31, 2017

La Prensa, Llega 2017 y Nicaragua sin un plan ante el cambio climático, Dec. 13,2 016

La Prensa, Urge agenda de adaptación al cambio climático, Nov. 8, 2016

La Prensa, Nicaragua rompe el consenso sobre acuerdo global climático, Dec. 12, 2015

La Nueva Radio Ya, Nicaragua presenta su posición sobre Acuerdos de París ante la OEA, June 14, 2016
Telesur, UN Speeches: Nicaraguan Vice President Moisés Omar Halleslevens Acevedo, posted Oct. 1, 2016

El 19 Digital, Nicaragua reitera que el Acuerdo de París no da solución a los impactos del cambio climático, April 22, 2016

Climate Home, Nicaragua to defy UN in climate pledge refusal, Nov. 30, 2015

United Nations, The Paris Agreement

United Nations, List of the Paris Agreement counties

United Nations,  Treaty collection

PolitiFact, Paris Agreement sees largest number of countries to sign on during any single day, April 26, 2016

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Miriam Valverde

Are Nicaragua and Syria the only countries not to sign Paris Agreement?

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