Paris Agreement Ratified Early: World Climate Work Now On Track

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In Strasbourg, France, yesterday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the UN’s climate group (COP 21), Ségolène Royal, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker witnessed the European parliament’s signed approval of the ratification of the Paris Agreement. 191 nations came to the agreement, which globalizes action on climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, in December 2015.

European Union ratifies the Paris Agreement, making it international law (
European Union ratifies the Paris Agreement, making it international law (

Last week (September 30, 2016), the European Union decided on this course, essentially fast-tracking the accord via joint ratification. The parliamentary approval concludes the EU’s ratification of the Agreement. Some of its member states have also ratified it individually, each in accordance with its national parliamentary processes. The others are expected to follow. Says the Vice-President for Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič:

“The European parliament has heard the voice of its people… today’s swift ratification triggers its implementation in the rest of the world.”

Now that the EU has formally joined, the entire world has crossed both thresholds necessary for the Paris Agreement to enter into force in 30 days:

  • At least 55 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (which includes virtually every nation in the world) have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession, AND
  • The estimated total contributions of these parties must emit over half (55%) of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The New York Times noted that the Agreement, soon to become a formal international treaty, begins the process of “shifting away from fossil fuels to limit global warming to ‘well below’ two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times” and limit heat waves, floods, droughts, and rising sea levels.

The Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the [Paris] Agreement will now govern the ratified treaty. The CMA will now have authority over all substantive, procedural, administrative, and operational matters. As we noted recently, the first international decisionmaking meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement—called “CMA1”–can now take place in conjunction with the upcoming conference of all the parties of the UNFCCC. The latter meeting (COP22) begins in Marrakesh, Morocco, on November 7, the day before the US presidential elections.

After a series of heartbreaking flops like the 2009 Copenhagen meeting, world climate action has finally taken shape. Nations have now met this and several other recent deadlines:

  • President Obama confers at the failed Copenhagen meeting in 2009 (White House/Pete Souza)
    President Obama confers at the failed Copenhagen meeting in 2009 (White House/Pete Souza)

    When all nations first announced the agreement last December, its ratification and treaty status were uncertain.

  • In the runup to today’s successful completion of negotiations, world leaders could only promise implementation by the end of this year. If the thresholds had not been crossed by then, CMA1 would not be held in conjunction with COP22, and efforts would have stalled until COP23 at the end of next year.
  • October 7 constituted the deadline for crossing the thresholds and initiating action this year. World nations beat the October 7 deadline by four days.

With a bit of justifiable regional pride, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared:

“Today the European Union turned climate ambition into climate action. The Paris Agreement is the first of its kind and it would not have been possible were it not for the European Union. Today we continued to show leadership and prove that, together, the European Union can deliver.”

Congratulations to India, a retweet from former UNFCCC leader Christiana Figueres (twitter)
Congratulations to India, a retweet from former UNFCCC leader Christiana Figueres (twitter, sic Gandhi)

On Monday — exactly a year after the Asian nation submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution — India deposited its instrument of ratification, becoming the 62nd country to join. Its participation ensured that the most critical three nations for future emissions — the US, China, and India — have committed to international climate goals.

With more than 55 Parties having joined the Agreement, India’s ratification brought the world total to almost 52 % of global emissions. Only 3.11% of the second threshold remained for the treaty to enter into force. India’s approval paved the way for both the EU’s decision on Tuesday, October 4, and world adoption of the Agreement.

Says Manish Bapna, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of the World Resources Institute:

“India’s leaders are standing shoulder to shoulder with the global community on climate change, a common challenge that unites us all…. Prime Minister Modi has made clear that his actions are driven by the necessity of blunting climate impacts today and for future generations, but also the significant economic opportunities of a clean energy future. [India] has one of the boldest renewable energy targets in the world, making it destined to be a major player in solar and wind markets.”

To identify which other countries have ratified the Paris Agreement and what the local processes are, use WRI’s Paris Agreement Tracker.

Canada is also expected to ratify the Paris Agreement this week. Prime Minister Trudeau announced yesterday that the Canadian government will impose carbon pricing on provinces and territories that do not develop it by 2018. The price will begin at a minimum of $10 a ton in 2018 and will rise $10 a year to $50 a ton in 2022. The PM will convene a meeting with premiers and First Nations organizations in December to develop the pan-Canadian framework to fight climate change. ClimateWire notes that as the specifics are on Japan’s parliamentary agenda, that nation may also ratify as soon as this week.

Europe’s Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “Our collective task is to turn our commitments into action on the ground…. We have the policies and tools to meet our targets, steer the global clean energy transition, and modernize our economy.”

You may be wondering how the treaty members will ensure that they adopt all key decisions without rushing the negotiations and while keeping the process inclusive. Throughout the UNFCCC process, and especially since COP20 in Lima two years ago, many parties have been discussing this matter.

Three main options exist to address these concerns:

  • Conclude all work on the modalities, procedures, and guidelines for transparency, communicating nationally determined contributions, stocktaking, and raising the bar, facilitating implementation, and promoting compliance within the two-week period of COP22 this year;
  • Decide on some issues at CMA1 this year and on the rest at future sessions; and
  • Keep CMA1 technically open in a process known as suspension, in which CMA1 would extend over one or more future COPs. In other words, CMA1 would open in Marrakesh, but would not formally close at the end of the COP22 session.

The first two options may be less politically and technically viable. The parties to the Agreement so far appear to favor the concept of suspending the closure of CMA1 until these events occur:

  • Modalities, procedures, and guidelines are fully developed, and
  • All countries that intend to join the Paris Agreement should have the opportunity to do so have had a reasonable opportunity to join.

Suspended sessions have happened before under the UNFCCC, at COP6 in The Hague in 2000 and in the preparatory meetings following Lima COP20 in 2014 and in advance of the 2015 Paris Agreement. This third option would give all parties that wish to join (the other 45%) the opportunity to do so. Joining will allow them to participate in final decisions and adoption of the modalities, procedures, and guidelines on the timelines established at COP21.

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