Nov 4, 2016, Paris Accord

Paris Agreement to enter into force on             November 4

Historic climate treaty passes both thresholds

LONDON: Today, the Paris Agreement passed the necessary threshold to begin the process for its entry into force – meaning the Agreement will officially enter into force globally on November 4. In doing so, it will become the first comprehensive climate agreement that commits all countries to taking climate action with the goal of keeping global warming “well below” the 2 degrees Celsius limit.

“Much like the adoption of the Paris Agreement itself in December last year, the entry into force of the treaty is a truly historic moment,” comments Damian Ryan, acting CEO, The Climate Group. “Few international agreements have entered into force at such speed and arguably none have been so important to our common future as the Paris Agreement.

“The decision by many world leaders to act quickly and boldly over the past 10 months is to be applauded. Thanks should also go to the business leaders as well as politicians in state and regional governments whose actions and policies, such as committing to 100% renewable power, have helped create the momentum and political belief that a better, safer and more prosperous world can be created through bold climate action.”

A long journey

The first paragraph of article 21 in the Agreement states that it will enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which it passes its twin thresholds – namely, when at least 55 parties to the UNFCCC, accounting for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession with the UN. Or in less technical terms, when more than half of the world has ratified the climate deal.

In April, 175 political leaders signed the Agreement in a record-breaking signing ceremony organized in New York. The event built on the climate momentum generated by Paris, but many underlined that signing was just the first step of a much longer journey: there was still the more complicated ratification process, where countries discuss the issue internally and then formally commit to the agreement with a document presented to the UN.

However, just last month, US and China – the two biggest emitters in the world, accounting for about 40% of global carbon emissions – officially ratified the Paris climate agreement, spurring an unstoppable momentum toward the goal of 55% of world’s emissions. Last Sunday, India – the world’s fourth biggest emitter, responsible for 4% of emissions – also ratified the climate deal.

“This is a momentous occasion,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “What once seemed unthinkable, is now unstoppable. Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is a testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation, grounded in national action, is essential to meet the climate challenge.”

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, commented: “Above all, entry into force bodes well for the urgent, accelerated implementation of climate action that is now needed to realize a better, more secure world and to support also the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Paris Agreement will entry into force on November 4, just before the Conference of the Parties in Marrakech (COP22), where political leaders will discuss how to implement the ambitious goals set in Paris.

Pressure on the EU

Before today, the Agreement had been ratified by 62 parties, accounting for about 52% of global emissions. The European Union is the world’s third largest emitter, with 12% of the global share. Given its complex, bureaucratic system, many thought the ratification procedure would have been lengthy and complex.

Under  the UNFCCC process that negotiated the deal, the EU is a party in its own right, albeit represented the collectively agreed position of its 28 member states, each with its own domestic constitutional system and political priorities.

This is why last June the European Commission (the policy making and civil service arm in the EU system), together with the European Parliament – presented a proposal for the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the news was received with some scepticism by the climate community. “They said Europe is too complicated to agree quickly,” said Miguel Arias Cañete, EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy in a statement last Friday. “Today we clearly showed that we mean business.”

“Ratification is a crucial step towards implementing the Paris Agreement,” warned Cañete. “But let’s be clear: ratification is not the end goal. It’s only the first step.” Countries must now quickly implement the agreement, which can not only avoid the worst effects of climate change but also spur a US$12.1 trillion investment opportunity over the next 25 years, as a BNEF report stated early this year.

“We must and we can hand over to future generations a world that is more stable, a healthier planet, fairer societies and more prosperous economies,” commented Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. “This is not a dream. This is a reality and it is within our reach. Today we are closer to it.”

A critical opportunity

“Progressive businesses” are crucial in the fight against climate change because they can “give governments the confidence they can go forward, that there are solutions and that a sound investment plan will be well received by the business community,” said Laurence Tubiana, Special Representative for COP21, Government of France, in an exclusive Climate TV interview.

One of the main architects of the Paris Agreement, Tubiana pointed to the importance of COP22 in Marrakesh, where we must “start the process […] that a number of countries commit to deliver their mid-century strategies by 2018, together with businesses, together with local authorities.”

The Climate Group is at the forefront of this new challenge, helping companies and sub-national governments to deliver the cleaner and more prosperous world shaped by the Paris Agreement. Leading companies have already joined bold projects such as RE100, committing the most influential businesses to go 100% renewable, and EP100, focused on doubling companies’ energy productivity.

On the political side, the States & Regions Alliance convenes the world’s most influential state and regional governments, sharing best practices and collaborating toward bold climate goals such as the Under2MOU – a fundamental tool to implement the core objective of the Paris Agreement of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Businesses and governments are recognizing the tremendous economic opportunity of the transition to a net-zero economy, which will deliver also a healthier world for its citizens. Today marks a historic moment, but it is also the moment to move from commitment to action.