By Marc Jourdan, GFDD UN Programs & Outreach Manager
At least 34 countries representing 49% of greenhouse gas emissions formally joined the Paris climate agreement, or committed to joining the agreement as early as possible this year at a high-profile signing ceremony at the United Nations last Friday.
The agreement, which is due to enter into force in 2020, sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.
As reported in our last blog post, when the agreement was adopted at the last UN climate meeting in Paris in December, some key elements in the Paris Agreement included: a target to limit global warming below 2°C, with further efforts to limit it below 1.5 °C, a financing mechanism that will raise at least US$100 billion a year to help developing countries tackle climate change, and review and monitoring process that will track the transparency of pledges and raise its ambition in five-yearly cycles.
At the time of the agreement, this was good news for the Dominican delegation as 80% of its proposals were taken into account, as confirmed by Mr. Omar Ramírez Tejada, the Executive Vice President of the National Council for Climate Change and Clean Development Mechanism (CNCCMDL).
So what difference does the signing ceremony make?
Although the agreement was adopted on December 12, 2015 in Paris, it has not yet entered into force. This will happen automatically 30 days after it has both been ratified by at least 55 countries, and by countries representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Both conditions of this threshold have to be met before the agreement is legally binding.
Those countries that have already completed their domestic processes for international agreements can choose to sign and ratify on the same day in New York.
It is no surprise that the countries which are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and who championed the need for high ambition in Paris were the first out of the gate to ratify in New York. This included: Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Seychelles and Tuvalu, countries which are all at very high risk of loosing significant land mass as a result of sea level rise.
So what about those countries that haven’t ratified?
China, which on its own accounts for about 20% of global emissions, told the UN it would finalize domestic procedures to join the agreement before the G20 meeting in September.
The United States which responsible for another 20% of global emission has said that it intends to ratify the deal nationally during 2016.
The European Union, which will sign as a group as well as 28 individual nations, has also said it will move forward quickly on ratification.
Why the urgency to ratify?
With a 175 governments having taken a first step of signing onto the deal on Friday, we now need to ramp up the pressure on our respective governments to ensure they set in place their own national climate plans and target (also known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) to follow through and join the 15 trend setting countries in making this agreement a reality.
The agreement itself goes into effect 30 days after the required countries ratify it. So with 15 countries onboard, we are very near to the target following which ratifying countries can, and should, start work to follow through on their commitments.
The ambition of the Paris agreement will only remain if it is followed with implementation. This will require the maintenance of political momentum.
We posted recently how 2015 had been confirmed the hottest year on record. What with this rising temperature rapidly melting polar caps, rising sea levels and the acidification of our oceans causing the bleaching of our corals it is clear that we need to act now!
As Leonardo DiCaprio, a U.N. Messenger of Peace warned the leaders on Friday, “our planet will not be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong.” To make this possible we need bold national commitment towards this transition today, not in 2020.
For a break down of the key provisions of the Paris Agreement please click here.