Thursday, September 22, 2016

UN Climate Pact Moves Closer to Taking Effect

A long-lasting storm that triggered fatal flooding in Louisiana last month was made more likely by greenhouse gas pollution, scientists have determined. (Credit: USDA/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
A slew of documents filed by national representatives on Wednesday thrust the new UN climate treaty closer to taking effect — a “hairbreadth” away, as Maldives foreign minister Mohamed Asim put it in a statement. But it’s not quite there yet.

During meetings in France in December, nearly 200 countries agreed to take steps to fight global warming under a new pact, such as by protecting forests and replacing coal power generation with cleaner alternatives.  But the agreement hasn’t actually taken effect yet, because that requires an extra bureaucratic step — one that sometimes takes years to complete. 

For the treaty to become law, or “take legal force,” at least 55 countries responsible for at least 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions need to have filed documents known as “instruments of ratification,” indicating they’re ready to join the pact.

Under pressure from UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Asim, and representatives of other nations, 31 countries filed their ratification documents during a ceremony on Wednesday morning.  That ceremony coincided with annual UN meetings.

“The remarkable support for this agreement reflects the urgency and magnitude of the challenge,” Ki-moon said at the beginning of the proceedings.  “Today will take us one step closer to bringing the Paris agreement into force this year.”

With the U.S., Brazil, and China among the countries that have already submitted their paperwork, Wednesday’s ceremony pushed the number that are formally poised to join the agreement over the threshold of 55 — but they collectively release 48 percent of yearly global climate pollution.  That means more countries must sign on before the agreement can take force.

“This is much faster than most people had anticipated,” said Michael Gerrard, a professor at Columbia Law School who focuses on environmental law.  “It’s a sign of the strong international consensus behind the Paris Agreement.”

Russia, India and Japan have agreed to join the pact, but they haven’t submitted their instruments of ratification.  Climate experts this week are watching closely for any Paris pact filings from those countries, “some combination” of which would help get the agreement “over the limit,” said Alex Hanafi, an official with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Meanwhile, EU environment ministers will meet Sept. 30 to discuss options for fast-tracking the bloc’s entry into the agreement.

Read more at UN Climate Pact Moves Closer to Taking Effect

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