How Syria's Failure to Uphold the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement Exacerbated the Effects of Climate Change in the Levant

AuthorNivea A. Ohri
PositionJ.D. Candidate, American University Washington College of Law 2021.
26 Sustainable Development Law & Policy
how SyRiaS failuRe to upholD the kyoto
pRotocol anD paRiS aGReement exaceRbateD
the effectS of climate chanGe in the levant
Nivea A. Ohri*
The drought in the Levant Region of the Arab Republic
of Syria has caused massive destruction by disrupting
agriculture and forcing migration to cities.1 The drought,
induced by climate change, has destroyed livelihoods, struc-
tures, and health of scores of people.2 Environmental tensions
fed a political discontent that had long been simmering in rural
areas, and was a trigger for the Syrian Revolution.3 Syrians even
turned to USAID for help in 2008 when the Syrian minister of
agriculture stated publicly, “the economic and social fallout from
the drought was ‘beyond [Syria’s] capacity as a country to deal
with.”4 However, the impacts of climate change and the drought
in the Levant are still felt today in both Syria and its surrounding
countries.5 Syria’s failure to uphold commitments under inter-
national environmental declarations such as the Kyoto Protocol
and the Paris Agreement exacerbated the drought in the Levant
Region of Syria.6
On June 26, 1997, Syria signed the Kyoto Protocol7 and
thus expressed its interest in mitigating climate change.8 Under
the Kyoto Protocol, Syria is a non-Annex country, which means
that it is “a mostly developing country, vulnerable to the adverse
impacts of climate change like desertication and drought.”9
Due to its non-Annex status, Syria is not bound to fulll any
goals or standards, or to make environmental changes to miti-
gate the effects of the drought.10 Despite international environ-
mental law lacking major repercussions for violations, countries
voluntarily expressed their interests in making environmental
Article 2 of the Kyoto Protocol encourages Syria to imple-
ment policies such as energy efciency, sustainable forms
of agriculture, updated research, and innovative technology
in accordance to national circumstances.12 Syria also signed
the Paris Agreement on November 17, 2017, which similarly
encourages environmental protection.13 Article 6.1 of the Paris
Agreement states that parties should voluntarily promote sus-
tainable development and environmental integrity.14 Article 7
of the Paris Agreement suggests that Syria should mitigate and
adapt to climate change by improving effectiveness, durability,
and scientic knowledge on climate change and research.15
Although Syria made an aspirational declaration to mitigate
climate change by signing each of these treaties, Syria has failed
to uphold its own stated goals. Syria has failed to honor Article
2 of the Kyoto Protocol, which states that countries “should not
. . . mismanage and fail to govern their water resources, and use
old and inefcient technology in farming and agriculture.”16
The violations have led to national distress as resources such as
water, food, housing, and goods became scarce.17 Article 2(1)
(a)(i) of the Kyoto Protocol suggests that signatory countries
should prioritize the “enhancement of the national economy,”
however, this is an obligation that Syria has failed to fulll due
to its mismanagement of water resources and continued use of
old, inefcient technology in agriculture.18 As of April 2017, an
estimated sixteen billion dollars in potential agriculture revenue
has been lost through inefcient production, as well as in dam-
aged and destroyed assets and infrastructure within the agricul-
ture sector.19
Likewise, Article 2(1)(a)(iv) suggests that countries should
implement policies to further enhance “research on, and promo-
tion, development and increased use of, new and renewable
forms of energy.”20 Syria has neither devoted resources nor funds
to environmental research and preservation, though it seems as
if Syria is making some effort and consideration to the matter.21
Both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement encour-
age the signatories to use resources as efciently and sustain-
ably as possible.22 A state violates a treaty when it uses more
than its allotted resources, and Syria used more than its allotted
resources without redeeming itself after the initial violation.23
Although there are few enforcement mechanisms that could
incentivize Syria to submit update reports on its environmental
progress, Syria has not voluntarily submitted an updated report
on its progress and standing since 2010.24 By using its resources
inefciently and outdatedly, and then failing to report its efforts
to adhere to the treaties, Syria has failed to meet the goals
that it adopted when signing the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris
The Paris Agreement is a treaty that Syria signed after the
2011 revolution, yet few improvements in water preservation
or distribution of resources have been made.26 The progress is
in similar standing to the Kyoto Protocol.27 The hot and humid
region of the Levant is suffering from climate change and water
scarcity.28 It is essential that Syria abide by the rules of the
treaties it has signed in order to further mitigate environmental
degradation and national distress. Because the environment is
directly linked to economic and political stability and growth,
with a better environment and basic needs of its inhabitants ful-
lled, Syria along with the Earth, will be more prosperous.29
*J.D. Candidate, American University Washington College of Law 2021.
continued on page 34

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