The Paris Climate Change Agreement Was Officially Activated Today

An ice cave in one of Iceland's many melting ice sheets. J. Helgason/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 04 Nov 2016, 20:21

The UN recently announced that the groundbreaking Paris agreement would officially come into force on November 4. Now, that hallowed day – one that many thought would never arrive – has come.

“The Agreement is undoubtedly a turning point in the history of common human endeavor, capturing the combined political, economic and social will of governments, cities, regions, citizens, business and investors to overcome the existential threat of unchecked climate change,” officials at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said in a statement.

“Its early entry into force is a clear political signal that all the nations of the world are devoted to decisive global action on climate change.”

After decades of work, the Paris agreement was forged and signed by 193 nations last December. To be activated, 55 countries representing 55 percent of global carbon emissions were required to formally have their own governments ratify their entry into the pact.

By this time last month, 74 countries representing 59 percent of emissions had joined up, including most of the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, and Indonesia. Today, 97 nations representing 69 percent of global emissions have entered the agreement.



The agreement’s key test was whether or not the US and China – the world’s second-most and most prolific greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters, respectively – would ratify the deal. Together, they represent 38 percent of the worlds GHGs. Without both of them signing up, other sizable nations would likely have held off.

Fortunately, back in September, both of them did. Major nations yet to ratify the agreement include Australia (1.5 percent of GHGs), the UK (1.6 percent), Japan (3.8 percent), and Russia (7.5 percent).

The ultimate aim of the pact is to phase out fossil fuels, and thus dramatically shrink the world’s carbon footprint. Although the greenhouse gas emission curbs pledged by each signatory nation is not legally binding, they do have to continually report on their progress as well as explain how they will up the ante of the pledges over time.

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