When the world’s governments came together in Paris at the end of 2015, it was a historic moment as the largest gathering of world leaders began groundbreaking negotiations to limit climate change.
Now, it seems that these talks have finally come to fruition. With the European Union voting to ratify the deal on Tuesday, it means that just 11 months after talks took place, the agreement will come into force, with all the signatories now compelled to meet their climate commitments.
Before the vote took place, there were 63 nations representing 52 percent of global greenhouse emissions already signed up to the accord. This was within striking distance of the 55 nations accounting for 55 percent of emissions needed for the deal to come into force. With the EU thought to emit at least 12 percent of global emissions, their vote to ratify paves the way for it to be pushed over the necessary threshold.
"With the action taken by the EU parliament, I am confident that we will be able to cross the 55% threshold very soon, in just a matter of a few days," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who attended the vote on Tuesday. "I am extremely honored to be able to witness this historic moment."
Many predicted that the talks were doomed to fail from the beginning, but against the odds, all 196 nations finally came together to sign the Paris climate agreement in December. That agreement is now coming into force, which means countries will have to implement policies that limit their emissions.
This includes a fund of $100 billion that will be provided by the richer nations, who have historically been the largest emitters of CO2, to the poorer nations to help them mitigate climate change. The agreement cannot force nations into doing anything, but they are all now required to meet every five years to discuss exactly what they have been doing to hit their targets.
While this is a historic moment, there have been some doubts raised over whether or not it goes far enough. The agreement aims to keep warming to within 2°C while “endeavoring” to keep it below 1.5°C, which was much more dramatic than anyone thought it would be. But the aims given for each country to achieve are not thought to be enough to meet this target, especially considering the world has already warmed by over 1°C.
The general consensus seems to find that even if every country sticks to its commitments as outlined by the Paris agreement, warming will be limited to at best 3°C, and possibly up to 4°C. This may mean that certain degrees of climate change will be inevitable and unavoidable, including rising sea levels that will put the survival of many island nations in danger, threatened food security, and more extreme weather events.
But it could be argued that this landmark moment will offer more than the initial commitments, as this will hopefully provide the building blocks on which to construct further initiatives and policies to limit emissions to an even greater degree.
It also goes some way to show that the political will seems to be gaining traction and that the world’s governments can indeed band together, as demonstrated earlier by the Montreal protocol that saw CFCs banned.