UNITED NATIONS: While there is so much uncertainty, misunderstanding, differences of opinions, ideologies, and tensions around the world between the nations, there was one solemn moment today that brought nearly all the nations and almost the entire humanity together for a common goal: to preserve the Earth for future generations.
The Climate Summit at the world headquarters of the United Nations was symbolic of the urgency felt by the entire world to address the rapidly changing climate, and to recognize the need to stop the degradation of the resources and the Earth itself we have been blessed to have.
Leaders from at least 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement on climate change on Friday, April 22, 2016 as the landmark deal took a key step forward, potentially entering into force years ahead of schedule. “We are in a race against time,” U.N. secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering. “The era of consumption without consequences is over.”
As many as 175 countries, including India, China and the US, signed the Paris Agreement on climate change at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, to coincide with ‘International Mother Earth Day’. This was the first day of the signing ceremony of the historic global deal. That such a large number of countries signed the agreement in a single day is significant. The previous record for the most countries to sign an international agreement on one day was set in 1982, when 119 countries signed the ‘Law of the Sea Convention’.
The Paris Agreement, the world’s response to hotter temperatures, rising seas and other impacts of climate change, was reached in December as a major breakthrough in U.N. climate negotiations, which for years were slowed by disputes between rich and poor countries over who should do what. Under the agreement, countries set their own targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The targets are not legally binding, but countries must update them every five years. The agreement aims to take multiple measures to save the world from disastrous consequences of climate change and was adopted by 195 countries in Paris
The agreement will be open for signature for one year – till April 21, 2017. However, merely signing the agreement will not make it operational. The United Nations says 15 countries, several of them small island states under threat from rising seas, did that on April 22nd by depositing their instruments of ratification. The agreement will enter into force once 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions have formally joined it. Many now expect the climate agreement to enter into force long before the original deadline of 2020. Some say it could happen this year. After signing, countries must formally approve the Paris Agreement through their domestic procedures.
India’s Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar signed the agreement on behalf of India. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and some heads of state and government, including French President Francois Hollande addressed the gathering. Also on the list of speakers was Mahindra Group chairman and managing director Anand Mahindra, as a representative of the business and corporate world.
India has maintained that the burden of fighting climate change cannot be put on the shoulders of the poor after decades of industrial development by the rich nations. It has announced plans to quadruple its renewable power capacity to 175 gigawatts by 2022 as part of the government’s plan to supply electricity to every household. However, India has so far not indicated when it would ratify it.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, holding his young granddaughter, joined dozens of world leaders for a signing ceremony that set a record for international diplomacy: Never have so many countries signed an agreement on the first available day. States that don’t sign Friday have a year to do so.
The United States has said it intends to join the agreement this year. The world is watching anxiously: Analysts say that if the agreement enters into force before President Barack Obama leaves office in January, it would be more complicated for his successor to withdraw from the deal because it would take four years to do so under the agreement’s rules. The United States put the deal into economic terms. “The power of this agreement is what it is going to do to unleash the private sector,” Kerry told the gathering, noting that this year is again shaping up to be the hottest year on record.
“The world must work together to ensure that the goals of the Paris Agreement are realized. US commitment to leadership in this arena has helped start a process that must last beyond your presidency,” a group of 145 US lawmakers said in a letter to US President Barack Obama.
China, the world’s top carbon emitter, announced it will “finalize domestic procedures” to ratify the Paris Agreement before the G-20 summit in China in September. Ban immediately welcomed the pledge. Maros Sefcovic, the energy chief for another top emitter, the 28-nation European Union, has said the EU wants to be in the “first wave” of ratifying countries.
French President Francois Hollande, the first to sign the agreement, said Friday he will ask parliament to ratify it by this summer. France’s environment minister is in charge of global climate negotiations. “There is no turning back now,” Hollande told the gathering. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced that his country would ratify the agreement this year.
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe brought applause when he declared, “Life itself is at stake in this combat. We have the power to win it.” Countries that had not yet indicated they would sign the agreement Friday include some of the world’s largest oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria and Kazakhstan, the World Resources Institute said.
Scientific analyses show the initial set of targets that countries pledged before Paris don’t match the agreement’s long-term goal to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), compared with pre-industrial times. Global average temperatures have already climbed by almost 1 degree Celsius. Last year was the hottest on record. The latest analysis by the Climate Interactive research group shows the Paris pledges put the world on track for 3.5 degrees Celsius of warming. A separate analysis by Climate Action Tracker, a European group, projected warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius. Either way, scientists say the consequences could be catastrophic in some places, wiping out crops, flooding coastal areas and melting Arctic sea ice.
According to reports, as the Paris Agreement moves forward, there is some good news. Global energy emissions, the biggest source of man-made greenhouse gases, were flat last year even though the global economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency. Still, fossil fuels are used much more widely than renewable sources like wind and solar power.
Under Article 21 of the Agreement, the Paris accord will enter into force on the 30th day after the date on which at least 55 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) deposit their “instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession” with the depositary at UN headquarters.
The Paris deal is the most ambitious climate change agreement in history. It established a long term, durable global framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions where 195 countries will work together to put the world on a path to keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. These countries had also agreed to pursue efforts to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.