UN, US Say Climate Treaty Will Bind Nations By Nov/Dec

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Both United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry (quoting President Obama), affirmed the viability of the Paris Agreement on climate change this morning. Sensing the urgency of acting on upcoming world disaster, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had convened a special “High-Level Event” today at the UN Headquarters in New York. The date coincided with the regularly scheduled United Nations General Assembly gathering.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon with US Secretary of State John Kerry, September 21, 2016 (screenshot from UN video)

The high-level event provided a chance for other countries to publicly commit to joining the Paris Agreement before the end of this year. The treaty, overwhelmingly approved by the Paris gathering of the UN Framework on Climate Change Convention last December and signed by 178 members as of June 2016, is a global action plan to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to 2°C or well below (1.5°C) by cutting back greenhouse gas emissions. It involves mitigation, adaptation, and finance, and would start in 2020.

Before yesterday, 27 countries had ratified the Paris Agreement. They accounted for 39.08% of global greenhouse gas emissions. China and the United States led by example in the final efforts leading up to today’s announcements. The two leading world emitters jointly ratified their pledges before the G20 met in early September.

G20 members commit to Paris Agreement at September 2016 meeting (un.org)

On Monday, French Environment Minister Segolene Royal (appointed COP21 President by French President François Hollande after the exit of the very successful Laurent Fabius) told the news bureau Agence France-Presse that she expected Agreement ratification before the next UNFCCC climate conference, which begins on November 7 in Marrakesh, Morocco.

By last night, confirmed by a tweet from Mr. Ban’s chief climate adviser Selwin Hart, numerous preliminary reports stated that at least 20 other countries would join the earlier respondents today. However, by this morning, the total that ratified had jumped higher, to 60 nations — five more than required by the first threshold (55 individual states) for ratification. Among these were Argentina, the United Arab Emirates, and Ukraine.

But there is a second threshold that today’s numbers did not reach.

Projections show ratification of Paris Agreement by 12/31/16 (climateanalytics.org)The commitments of the 60 nations did not add up to 55% of the total world emissions, as required by the Agreement. Although they total just over 47.5%, treaty ratification demands that another 7.5% of Earth’s anthropogenic GHGs be accounted for.

Patricia Espinosa, the new Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told reporters:

“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….

We now look forward to the final threshold that will, 30 days later, trigger entry into force. Namely, at least 55% of the global greenhouse gas emissions also being covered by Parties who have ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the Paris Agreement with the UN’s Depositary.

Today we can say with ever more confidence that this historic moment is likely to come very soon, perhaps even by the time governments meet for the next round of climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco in November.”

If the 55 nation/55% threshold is reached by October 7th of this year, the first international Paris Agreement implementation meeting (“CMA1”) will take place in conjunction with the Morocco COP22 UN climate summit. If the threshold is reached after that, CMA1 will be held at the next major UN climate summit (COP 23) late in 2017. Quicker ratification would thus save a year of implementation time.

More confidence arose this morning during the remarks at the UN by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Addressing his fellow representatives as “warriors for the planet,” Kerry said that his conversations with President Obama had resulted in both men agreeing that the agreement would go into force before COP 22. He also apologized for previous US obstructionism (i.e., not signing the Kyoto Protocol and other acts) and declared that “in Paris, we began to rewrite the end of this story.”

The Secretary-General spoke of his conversations with other world leaders. Ban expressed his sense that the deal would be struck within days, and certainly by the time of the Marrakesh conference or the day he leaves office (December 31, 2016). He also urged passage of pre-COP22 protocols for releases from aircraft and HFC reductions at upcoming meetings.

Ratification of the Paris Agreement by nations of the UN (climateanalytics.org)

If we look at the top 10 world emitters, as shown on the World Resources Institute’s CAIT model, we find China and the US, among the first groups to ratify the treaty, at the top of the list. As noted earlier, these countries ratified the treaty in tandem. Iran ratified it in July. Mexico and Brazil are among the newest arrivals to the group of ratifying nations.

Now that the United Kingdom has committed to leave the European Union shortly (“Brexit”), the formerly declared EU ratification status may be uncertain. Theresa May, newly elected premier of the UK, promised yesterday to make a commitment by the end of the year.

Those who have not yet ratified the Agreement include the following:

India. From The Hindu, September 15:

“India has not yet publicly declared a timeline for ratifying the Paris Agreement. After the recent meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama in Laos, a White House official had said ‘the leaders noted our joint commitment, fulfilled by the United States… to join the Paris Agreement this year….’ The White House had made a similar assertion after Mr. Modi’s June visit to Washington.”

Russia. This morning, from the Russian news agency TASS:

“Russia will not artificially fast-track the ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change just for the sake of keeping abreast of other countries, Russian presidential adviser on climate affairs Aleksandr Bredritsky said when asked if the Russia might accelerate this process to catchup with the United States, China and a number of other countries that have already ratified it.”

Japan. From Ed King, Climate Home, as of August 17, 2016:

“Japan’s government plans to present the deal to Parliament in the autumn, a senior official told the Japan Today website.”

Indonesia, which jumped over Russia in rank last year because of its raging forest fires. Said on its April signing,

“Indonesia will do its utmost to be among the first 55 countries to ratify the Paris Agreement. Our parliament has given its political support for the ratification of the Paris Agreement.”

But from Climate Scorecard, June 25, 2016:

“Likely to ratify by 2018.”

Climate Analytics has projected that at least 19 more nations will ratify the Agreement by the end of 2016.

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