The European Parliament meets at the Louise Weiss Building in Strasbourg, France.
Image courtesy Wikimedia, photo by Ralf Roletschek.

The European Union is now on the verge of ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change as the alliance’s 751-member parliament approved the accord on Tuesday.

The EU nations account for about 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Once EU ratification is formally communicated to the United Nations, the last requirement for the Paris Agreement to take effect will have been met because nations responsible for more than 63 percent of the planet’s emissions of atmosphere-warming gases will have accepted it.

At least 55 nations that are responsible for at least 55 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions must ratify, adopt, accept, or accede to the Paris Agreement before it commences to bind signatory countries.

“Our vote paves the way to ensure that the agreement meets the necessary threshold,” EU Parliament president Martin Schulz said in a statement. “The entry into force of the Paris agreement less than one year after its signature is a massive achievement, given that it took eight years for the Kyoto protocol.”

The Council of the European Union must formally approve the Paris Agreement before an instrument of ratification can be submitted to the UN. That submission is expected to occur by Friday.

Once it does so, a 30-day clock until the climate deal takes effect will commence running. If the EU submits its ratification to the UN by Friday, then the Paris Agreement will go into effect before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8.

Several individual EU members have also ratified the climate deal, including Austria, France, Germany, Malta, Portugal, and Slovakia.

New Zealand also ratified the Paris Agreement on Tuesday, raising to 63 the number of countries that have done so.

UPDATE, Oct. 5, 2016, 11:49 pm MDT:

Canada and Nepal ratified the Paris Agreement on Wednesday, which means that 73 nations that account for more than 57 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions have done so.

United Nations secretary-general Ban-Ki Moon said that the accord will take effect on Nov. 4.

“Global momentum for the Paris Agreement to enter into force in 2016 has been remarkable,” he said. “What once seemed unthinkable is now unstoppable.”

“Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of Governments that robust global cooperation is essential to meet the climate challenge.”

President Barack Obama also hailed the events.

“Today, the world meets the moment,” he said in comments delivered in the White House Rose Garden. “And if we follow through on the commitments that this agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.”


India ratifies Paris Agreement

India’s Union Cabinet approved the Paris Agreement on climate change Wednesday, sending a strong signal that the south Asia power will act soon to join sixty-one other nations that have formally signed on to the December 2015 accord.

The Times of India reported that India will submit its ratification to the United Nations on Oct. 2.

Narendra Modi, the country’s prime minister, announced Sept. 26 that India wants to ratify the Paris Agreement on that date because it is the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.

The country will become the sixty-second in the world to adopt or ratify the Paris Agreement. But the accord is not likely to take effect until additional nations formally adopt it. Nations that account for 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, along with at least 55 nations in total, have to accede to the agreement before it becomes operative.

The Ramagundan Super Thermal Power Station in Telangana, India is one of the country’s many coal-fired power plants. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

India obtains most of its electricity from coal combustion and is responsible for 4.1 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations. Its joinder of the Paris Agreement will mean that nations that cause about 51.89 percent of the planet’s atmospheric greenhouse gas pollution will have signed on.

Environment ministers representing the European Union nations are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss ratification of the Paris Agreement.

Mali became the sixty-first country to adopt the Paris Agreement on Sept. 23.



Thirty-one more countries ratify Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement on climate change took a big step toward becoming effective Wednesday as two and one-half dozen more countries signed on.

Sixty nations have now ratified the Dec. 2015 accord, five more than the minimum needed, but they account for only 47.76 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement will take effect only when countries representing at least 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions join it.

“What seemed at one time impossible is now inevitable,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “I am confident by the time I leave office (on Dec. 31), the Paris agreement will have entered into force.”

The Paris Agreement aims to keep warming of the atmosphere to an amount below 2 degrees Celsius. Each country is to develop a reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions produced by its economy.

The countries that acted formally Wednesday to signal intent to comply with the Paris Agreement included Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Brunei, Dominica, Ghana, Guinea, Honduras, Iceland, Kiribati, Madagascar, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco,  Namibia, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Senegal, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Tonga, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Vanuatu.

Ukraine ratified the Paris Agreement on Sept. 19, while Micronesia indicated its acceptance on Sept. 15.

The period in which countries can ratify, adopt, or accept the Paris Agreement ends on Apr. 17, 2017.

Obama administration considering expansion of California Coastal National Monument

This view is from the Stornetta Public Lands, added to the California Coastal National Monument by President Barack Obama in 2014. Image courtesy Bureau of Land Management, photo by Jim Pickering.

A senior official of the U.S. Department of Interior visited California last week to discuss a proposal to expand the California Coastal National Monument, indicating that the Obama administration may be considering a request by several of the state’s federal legislators to increase the preserve’s size.

Bureau of Land Management director Neil Kornze attended a forum in Cambria on Friday, along with U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and the leader of the state’s natural resources department, John Laird, to hear public input on the idea.

Kornze did not say whether the Department of Interior would recommend that President Barack Obama accept the suggestion by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Capps, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) to increase the size of CCNM by more than 6,000 acres.

“Designating each of these land areas as individual units of the larger National Monument will create a network of protected onshore federal coastal lands,” the Feb. 11 letter containing the proposal said. “These additions will provide improved access to the California Coastal National Monument and numerous benefits to the well-being of the land and neighboring communities, while providing important protections for these unique and historically important areas.”

The land suggested for the CCNM expansion is administered by BLM and is located along the coast in Humboldt, Santa Cruz, and San Luis Obispo counties. Acreage that includes the Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area in San Luis Obispo County, Lighthouse Ranch and Trinidad Head in Humboldt County, the Cotoni-Coast Dairies in Santa Cruz County, and the Lost Coast Headlands would be part of the national monument if Obama accepts the recommendation.

This image shows the view looking north from Lighthouse Ranch, toward the south spit of Humboldt Bay. Lighthouse Ranch is located on Table Bluff in Humboldt County, California. Image courtesy Bureau of Land Management.

Obama has the power to add to CCNM’s size. The American Antiquities Act of 1906 grants the chief executive the authority to designate public land that meets certain qualifications as part of a national monument:

“[T]he President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected . . . ”

CCNM was established by President William J. Clinton in 2000. Obama expanded it once before, in 2014, by adding 1,665 acres in Mendocino County.

Boxer and Capps are lead sponsors of legislation in both chambers of Congress that would give Congress’ imprimatur to the expansion they ask President Obama to proclaim. The bills are S. 1971 and H.R. 3565.


Brazil, Panama join Paris climate agreement

The Paris climate agreement is getting closer to taking effect as two Latin American nations are on the verge of adopting it.

Brazil and Panama completed their internal ratification processes on Sept. 12, according to a report published by Climate Change Policy & Practice.

They are the 28th and 29th countries to indicate acceptance of the Paris Agreement, which can take effect only after 55 nations that represent 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions ratify it.

Brazil is the world’s seventh-largest contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gas pollution, contributing 2.48 percent of the planet’s emissions.

Panama is a much less significant contributor to anthropogenic climate change. The Central American nation is responsible for about 0.03 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

The addition of the two countries means that nations that emit more than 40 percent of worldwide greenhouse emissions have formally entered the agreement.

United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon announced July 18 that he will convene a ” High-Level Event on Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change” in New York on Sept. 21. Countries will be afforded the opportunity at the event to formally indicate their participation in the Paris Agreement.



China, U.S. formally enter into Paris climate change agreement

Obama signature on Paris Agreement document, Sept. 3, 2016
President Barack Obama signed the Paris Agreement on behalf of the United States on Aug. 29, 2016. Photo courtesy The White House.

President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, announced Saturday in Hangzhou that the world’s two leading greenhouse gas emitters have formally acceded to the terms of last year’s Paris Agreement on climate change.

The two nations account for 40 percent of the planet’s atmosphere-warming pollution. Obama pointed to the action Saturday as a key step in assuring that the 195 country-strong deal reached last December in France does lead to an effective response to climate change.

“We have a saying in America — that you need to put your money where your mouth is. And when it comes to combating climate change, that’s what we’re doing, both the United States and China. We’re leading by example. As the world’s two largest economies and two largest emitters, our entrance into this agreement continues the momentum of Paris, and should give the rest of the world confidence –- whether developed or developing countries -– that a low-carbon future is where the world is heading.”

Nations were able to sign the Paris Agreement starting on Earth Day of this year. The Paris Agreement will take effect only when 55 countries that represent 55 percent of all GHG emissions on Earth ratify, accept, approve, or accede to it.

With the acceptance by both China and the U.S., 179 nations and the European Union have indicated approval, but only 26 have ratified it. The ratifying nations account for about 39 percent of planetary GHG emissions.

Bahamas, The Aug. 22, 2016
Barbados Apr. 22, 2016
Belize North America Apr. 22, 2016
Cameroon Africa Jul. 29, 2016
China Asia Sept. 3, 2016
Cook Islands Oceania Sept. 1, 2016
Fiji Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
Grenada Apr. 22, 2016
Guyana South America May 20, 2016
Maldives Asia Apr. 22, 2016
Marshall Islands Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
Mauritius Africa Apr. 22, 2016
Nauru Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
North Korea Asia Aug. 1, 2016
Norway Europe Jun. 20, 2016
Palau Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
Palestine Asia Apr. 22, 2016
Peru South America Jul. 25, 2016
Saint Kitts and Nevis Apr. 22, 2016
Saint Lucia Apr. 22, 2016
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Jun. 29, 2016
Samoa Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
Seychelles Apr. 29, 2016
Somalia Africa Apr. 22, 2016
Tuvalu Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
United States of America North America Sept. 3, 2016

The Paris Agreement was reached at the 21st Gathering of the Parties of the UNFCCC. As the first international agreement aimed at limiting the warming of the planet’s atmosphere and oceans now underway as a result of human exploitation of fossil fuels, the Paris Agreement does not require any specific actions by nations to reduce GHG emissions.

Instead, the accord is aspirational. As the United Nations assistant secretary-general for climate change told CBS News last December, it is a plan that aims to “name and encourage” the nations who fail to meet commitments to reduce GHG emissions.

Those commitments, known as “nationally determined contributions,” are to be “ambitious” and “represent a progression over time.” The content of NDCs are to be established “with a view to achieving the purpose of the [Paris Agreement].”

The core of the Paris Agreement is the specification of climate change-related objectives:

“(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

“(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; [and]

“(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

During the first half of this year the average worldwide temperature was about 1.3 degrees Celsius above that recorded in 1880. Moreover, a study published in Nature on June 30 concluded that all of the NDCs in place so far would not lead to warming of less than 2 degrees Celsius.






Conservation congress begins in Hawaii

IUCN World Congress 2016 logo.png

A quadrennial gathering of government leaders and civic activists aimed at developing an agenda for environmental protection got underway in Hawaii Wednesday and President Barack Obama was in Honolulu to welcome the event to the United States.

More than 8,300 delegates are participating in the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Congress. They represent 184 countries.

They are expected to focus on four key priorities: climate change, ocean conservation, private investment in conservation activities, and wildlife trafficking.

Obama put the spotlight on climate change during his address Wednesday to the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, which is also happening in Honolulu:

“When it comes to climate change, there is a dire possibility of us getting off course, and we can’t allow that to happen. That’s why our united efforts are so important. Government has a role to play, but so do scientists and inventors and investors, all working to revolutionize clean energy production. Entrepreneurs and academics and leaders in this room are collaborating across continents. And everyday citizens of the world are going to have to push their own communities to adopt smarter practices, and to push those of us in positions of power to be less concerned with special interests and more concerned about the judgment of future generations.”

The first full day of events  will occur on Friday. Among them will be a press conference that discusses the findings of the Great Elephant Census, a project that counted 93 percent of all elephants in Africa.

The GEC found that far fewer African elephants than previously thought are roaming the continent, with only about 352,000 remaining in all African countries covered by the study. That represents an estimated 30 percent decline between 2007 and 2014.

Other events will highlight updates to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, report on the extent to which the planet’s oceans are warming, and name new Marine Hope Spots.

The latter are areas of the oceans designated by the conservation advocacy organization Mission Blue as being particularly needful or worthy of protection. The concept was proposed by oceanographer Sylvia Earle in a 2009 TED talk.

According to a description of the program posted on the Mission Blue website, Marine Hope Spots are those that exhibit:

  • Particular populations of rare, threatened or endemic species
  • A site with potential to reverse damage from negative human impacts
  • Spectacles of nature, e.g., major migration corridors or spawning grounds
  • Significant historical, cultural or spiritual values
  • Particular economic importance to the community

Delegates are also expected to vote on a number of motions aimed at putting the IUCN World Congress on record in support of particular policies. Those are expected to include a plea for all nations close domestic markets to ivory, increase protection for pangolin species, improve forest conservation practices, and work toward improvements in the system for preserving biological diversity outside of national borders.

The last IUCN World Congress was held in 2012 on Jeju Island, South Korea.