The Paris Agreement, which calls on the world's nations to keep global warming significantly below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), will enter into force in the first week of November, now that 70 countries, representing 56.68 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified it. Participating countries, including the United States, have submitted written pledges to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, by transitioning to cleaner energy sources and by promoting energy efficiency.
"Never before has such a major international agreement—with 191 signatories—come into force so rapidly!" said Carol Werner, EESI's Executive Director. "The world's nations acted with such record speed because they all agree on the urgency of the situation: we must act rapidly to lower our greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize the climate. The United States was one of the first industrial nations to ratify the agreement, and we must continue to lead the way by following through on our pledge."
The Paris Agreement was approved by consensus on December 12, 2015, but could only come into force if at least 55 countries, representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, ratified it. Those thresholds were met today, when the European Union formally adopted the agreement, joining big emitters China, the United States, India, Brazil, and Mexico. The European Union's decision makes it possible for France, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Malta and Portugal (accounting for 4.57 percent of global GHG emissions) to submit their earlier ratifications to the United Nations. The other 21 nations of the European Union will join the Paris Agreement once they complete their national ratification processes.
The Paris Agreement will officially come into force 30 days after October 5, the day the European Union is set to deposit its instruments of ratification with the United Nations—just in time for the next international climate conference from November 7 to 18 in Marrakesh, Morocco.
The speed of the agreement's ratification is heartening, and bodes well for its success. However, the Paris agreement will not be impervious to the winds of political change, either in the United States or in other major greenhouse gas emitters, such as China and India.
"The Paris Agreement will work only if the world's nations make it work," noted Werner. "Countries that do not meet their commitments—that do not reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as they've promised to do—will not be penalized under the terms of the agreement. Nor can they be sanctioned if their commitments are found wanting. Only peer pressure and a sense of responsibility can make the Paris Agreement a success."
"Accelerating our transition to a clean and much more efficient energy economy will lead to all sorts of benefits," emphasized Werner. "Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency creates good, local jobs and builds strong supply chains. It keeps us healthier by reducing pollution. It saves money, allowing for other investments. And it makes us more secure as a nation." In fact, U.S. emissions have already dropped significantly, putting us well on the road to achieving our commitment—but emission cuts will need to be aggressively maintained and deepened to meet our overall goal.
The Paris Agreement's ratification may be followed by another very welcome development this coming week, when delegates from the 197 nations that are part of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer will meet in Kigali, Rwanda. They are expected to bring forward the date at which nations must cap their use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which have a major warming impact on the climate. Their action could slow global warming by half a degree Celsius.
For more information:
- Paris Agreement – Status of Ratification (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)
- Paris Agreement to enter into force as EU agrees ratification (European Commission)
- Progress Outweighs Uncertainty in Paris Climate Deal (EESI press release, December 12, 2015)
- Paris Agreement (full text)