Paris climate agreement poised to come into force

UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, predicts global climate deal will be fully ratified by the end of the year after 31 nations officially sign up in New York
Oliver Milman The Guardian 21 Sep 16;

The Paris climate agreement is on the brink of coming into force after 31 nations officially joined the landmark accord, with the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, predicting it will be fully ratified by the end of the year.

On Wednesday, 31 countries formally signed up to the Paris deal at the UN general assembly in New York. They include Brazil, the world’s seventh largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Mexico, Argentina and Sri Lanka. Oil-rich United Arab Emirates also ratified the deal, as did nations considered particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, such as Kiribati and Bangladesh.

The pledges mean that a total of 60 countries, representing 47.7% of global emissions, have now formally joined the Paris agreement. The deal aims to limit the global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration of keeping it to 1.5C.

A total of 55 nations representing at least 55% of global emissions need to sign up for the deal to come into force. The first of these thresholds has now been reached, with Ban and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, both predicting that the agreement will be fully implemented within months.

“I’m ever more confident that the Paris agreement will enter into force this year,” Ban said. “I appeal to all leaders to accelerate domestic arrangements to join this year.

“What once seemed impossible now seems inevitable. When this year ends, I hope we can all look back with pride knowing that we seized the opportunity to protect our common home.”

Video messages from Germany, France, the EU, Canada, Australia and South Korea among others all promised to ratify the Paris accord in the coming months. Should these promises be fulfilled, the agreement will pass the second threshold and come into force.

Australia, one of the largest per capita emitters, will make its “best endeavours to ratify” in 2016, said the country’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Barbara Hendricks, the German environment minister, said her country planned to ratify the deal “well ahead” of the next UN climate meeting in Marrakesh in November. The UK has made a similar commitment.

Kerry said it was an “exciting moment” but warned that the threat posed by climate change grows every day.

“The problem we continue to confront is growing,” he said. “Each day the planet is on this course, it becomes more dangerous.

“If anyone doubted the science, all they have to do is watch, sense, feel what is happening in the world today. High temperatures are already having consequences, people are dying in the heat, people lack water, we already have climate refugees.”

Kerry added that international climate negotiations have been a “long and frustrating path” since 1992 but that the Paris deal means that they are “finally becoming a story that we are proud to tell our grandchildren and future generations”.

The UN climate change chief, Patricia Espinosa, said: “This is an extraordinary momentum by nations and a clear signal of their determination to implement Paris now and raise ambition over the decades to come.”

A total of 195 nations put their name to the Paris deal and submitted promises to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. Several analyses have cast doubt over whether the pledged emissions cuts will be sufficient to prevent a 2C temperature increase, with concerns exacerbated by record-breaking heat experienced over the course of 2016

The warmest August on record was recorded last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed on Tuesday. The US government agency said last month was the 16th month in a row where temperature records were broken, with July being the single warmest month since modern record keeping began in 1880.

The soaring heat, which has retained much of its intensity despite the end of the El NiƱo climatic event, is unprecedented in at least 1,000 years and probably much longer, scientists have said.

But climate campaigners have said that the speed of the Paris deal ratification raises hopes that the world is finally swinging behind efforts to reduce emissions and prevent the worst ravages of a warming planet.

“The global community is rallying behind swift and ambitious action to combat climate change,” said Paula Caballero, global director of the World Resources Institute’s climate program.

“The fact that the Paris agreement will likely enter into force this year took everyone by surprise. This rapid pace reflects a spirit of cooperation rarely seen on a global scale.

“Today we pause and celebrate the important progress towards bringing the Paris agreement into force. Then we again pick up our shovels and continue the hard work of creating a safer and more prosperous planet.”

Paris climate accord closer after UN meeting
Shaun Tandon Yahoo News 22 Sep 16;

Smoke belches from a coal-fired power station near Datong, in China's northern Shanxi provinceView photos
Smoke belches from a coal-fired power station near Datong, in China's northern Shanxi province (AFP Photo/Greg Baker)
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United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The landmark Paris agreement on climate change moved closer to reality Wednesday after 31 countries joined during the United Nations General Assembly.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced confidence that the accord, through which countries commit to take action to stem the planet's rising temperatures, would come into force by the end of the year.

"The momentum is remarkable," said the outgoing UN chief, who convened a meeting on the Paris accord during the annual UN gathering of leaders.

"When the Paris agreement enters into force this year, it will be a major step forward on our journey for a more secure, more equitable and more prosperous future," Ban said.

The countries that joined the accord on Wednesday included Latin American powerhouses Argentina, Brazil and Mexico as well as major fossil-fuel powers Brunei and the United Arab Emirates.

Also submitting its ratification was Morocco, the host of the next UN climate conference which opens in Marrakesh on November 7.

Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said that Morocco was "strongly committed" to putting the Paris accord in force in time for the meeting.

The Paris agreement needs ratification from 55 countries that account for at least 55 percent of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

With Wednesday's event, in which leaders ceremonially ratified the accord, a total of 60 countries have joined the Paris accord but they account for less than 48 percent of global emissions.

- Calls for more ambition -

The accord requires all countries to devise plans to achieve the goal of keeping the rise of temperatures within two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

But Edgar Gutierrez, the environment and energy minister of Costa Rica, said that the level was not ambitious enough in light of evidence of worse-than-feared climate change, with last month the hottest August on record, extending the global record streak to 16 months.

Gutierrez called for countries to aim for 1.5 Celsius and warned that even a one-year delay in implementing the Paris accord could be too late for the planet.

"Climate change is already dangerous, it has already exceeded the capacity of many countries to adapt to it, we have already lost lives, we are losing species and we have lost lands and buildings," said Gutierrez, speaking on behalf of a troika of climate-vulnerable nations including Ethiopia and the Philippines.

Mattlan Zackhras, a senior official from the Marshall Islands, warned that despite pledges under the Paris accord the planet still looked on track for a rise of three degrees.

"This will wipe out my country and many island-states in the Pacific," he told reporters.

- EU set to seal accord -

Ban's office said that 14 other countries accounting for 12.58 percent of emissions had signaled they would ratify the accord this year, meaning the agreement is virtually certain to come into force, barring a widespread change of heart.

The European Union will enter the agreement "in the next weeks," Miguel Arias Canete, the 28-member bloc's commissioner for climate action and energy, told reporters.

China and the United States, the two largest emitters, gave a major boost to the accord when they signed on during a summit earlier this month between presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama.

Amid political opposition from the rival Republican Party, Obama has had to rely on executive actions including regulating power plants to cut emissions in the United States.

The US Senate refused to join the earlier Kyoto Protocol, leading the Democratic Obama administration to insist that the Paris agreement not be a formal treaty that would require Senate ratification.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States "shared our part of the blame" for the years of difficulty in securing global action on climate change.

"It's one of the reasons why President Obama and I have been so focused and so committed to try to make up that difference and help us to get where we are today," Kerry said at the United Nations.

Kerry pointed to the string of record-breaking high temperatures, as well as rising incidence of disease and water scarcities, as reasons to be ambitious in cutting emissions.

"If ever anybody doubted science, all they have to do is watch, feel, sense what is happening in the world today," he said.

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