Climate change agreement moves closer

03 October 2016

India yesterday formally deposited its ratification of the Paris Climate Change Agreement with the United Nations. The European Union is set to do the same after ministers last week gave their approval. EU ratification will take the number of signatories over the final threshold needed for the agreement to enter into force. 

India brings the total number of states ratifying the agreement to 62, representing 51.89% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. To enter into force it must pass two thresholds: to secure ratification from at least 55 of its 197 signatories, a milestone reached in September; and to be ratified by states accounting for a total of at least 55% of global emissions. With EU ratification likely to be approved by the European Parliament this week, the agreement looks set to cross the second threshold.

European Union ministers announced on 30 September their approval of ratification, following an extraordinary meeting of the EU Environment Council in Brussesl. Formal consent will be required from the European Parliament before the European Council can adopt the decision. The European Parliament is to vote on the issue tomorrow.

The Paris Agreement was adopted at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - widely known as COP 21 - in December 2015 and signed by many parties early this year. Its main aim is to keep global temperature increases this century well below 2 degrees Celsius, and drive efforts to limit temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, which the UNFCCC says is a "significantly safer" defence against the worst impacts of climate change.

Announcing the EU decision last week, EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said the short period - six months - between signing and adopting the agreement showed it to be "a real game-changer" in global climate politics. "Our partners are coming on board faster than anyone would have imagined. And Europe must show we can deliver too," he said.

European Parliament Environmental Committee Chairman Giovanni La Via welcomed the ministers' decision. "This decision will permit Parliament to conclude the agreement and will send a strong signal and highlight the leadership of the EU and its Member States and their continuing efforts to address climate change at the international level," he said. "The prospect that the Paris Agreement might enter into force without the EU as a signatory, considering the EU's leadership on the fight against climate change, its role in the Kyoto Protocol, and its continuous efforts towards a subsequent universal treaty, would have been unthinkable," he added.

The agreement will enter into force on the thirtieth day after a sufficient number of its parties required to meet its threshold conditions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. When it enters into force, countries will be required to transform the climate action plans they submitted in the run up to the Paris conference into Nationally Determined Contributions, which they will then be required to update every five years. Governments will also be obligated to take action to achieve the two temperature limits enshrined in the agreement.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News