Kerry speaks to COP22, says Obama’s progress on U.S. climate policy will endure

kerry-signs-paris-agreement-apr-22-2016-photo-courtesy-un-photo-by-amanda-voisard-cc-by-ny-flickr
U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry, with his grand-daughter in his arms, signs the Paris Agreement on April 22, 2016.
Photo courtesy United Nations, photo by Amanda Voisard/CC BY-ND (Flickr).

John F. Kerry, the chief diplomat of the United States, reassured world leaders Wednesday that the American commitment to greenhouse gas emission cutbacks would survive the presidency of climate science denier Donald J. Trump.

Kerry’s remarks to an annual gathering of representatives of the nations that have signed the planet’s principal treaty governing climate policy were set against a backdrop of nervousness that, under Trump, the U.S. would renege on its Paris Agreement obligations.

The secretary of state pointed to market trends as the likely bulwark of the country’s progress in rolling back atmospheric pollution by carbon dioxide and other warming gases.

“I’ve met with leaders and innovators in the energy industry all across our nation, and I am excited about the path that they are on,” Kerry said. “America’s wind generation has tripled since 2008 and that will continue, and solar generation has increased 30 times over. And the reason both of those will continue is that the marketplace will dictate that, not the government.”

Kerry also argued that the political momentum for an enduring program of GHG emission cuts is too powerful to stop, pointing out that the evidence of human impacts on the atmosphere and oceans is too great to be ignored:

“Now, I want to acknowledge that since this COP started, obviously, an election took place in my country,” Kerry said. “And I know it has left some here and elsewhere feeling uncertain about the future. I obviously understand that uncertainty. And while I can’t stand here and speculate about what policies our president-elect will pursue, I will tell you this: In the time that I have spent in public life, one of the things I have learned is that some issues look a little bit different when you’re actually in office compared to when you’re on the campaign trail.”

The secretary of state, who is due to leave office when President Barack Obama’s second term in the White House ends on Jan. 20, 2017, also spoke at length about visits to Greenland and Antarctica and urged Trump, without naming him, to learn from climate scientists.

“[A]bove all, consult with the scientists who have dedicated their entire lives to expanding our understanding of this challenge, and whose work will be in vain unless we sound the alarm loud enough for everyone to hear. No one has a right to make decisions that affect billions of people based on solely ideology or without proper input.

“Anyone who has these conversations, who takes the time to learn from these experts, who gets the full picture of what we’re facing – I believe they can only come to one legitimate decision, and that is to act boldly on climate change and encourage others to do the same.”

Delegates from nearly 200 nations are gathered in Marrakesh, Morocco for the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

 

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Secretary of State Kerry visits Antarctica, highest U.S. official ever to make the trip

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U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry and his party encountered a curious Adele penguin at McMurdo Station in Antarctica during a visit there on Friday, Nov. 11.
Image courtesy U.S. Department of State.

U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry arrived in Antarctica Friday for a two-day visit, becoming the most senior American official ever to visit the vast continent.

Kerry flew to McMurdo Station aboard a C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft. The five hour-long flight ended when the huge airplane landed on an ice patch that serves the U.S. installation there.

The nation’s chief diplomat spoke to American scientists at McMurdo Station and encouraged them to remain hopeful about the U.S. commitment to fight climate change in the aftermath of a divisive election that saw a climate science denier, Donald J. Trump, win enough Electoral College votes to become the country’s president-elect.

“The rest of the world is not going to abide by scofflaws,” Kerry said. “They’re not going to tolerate people walking away from responsibility, because every country has to be part of this. No one country can solve this problem. And every other country that I know of is starting to try to figure out how they’re going to be able to do it.”

Kerry has led an effort to significantly raise the United States’ diplomatic focus on climate change.

In 2016 he played a key role in achieving international agreements to limit emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas used in refrigerators and air conditioners, and of carbon dioxide by aircraft.

The HFC agreement, reached during meetings held in Kigali, Rwanda in October, will lead to the phase-out of the compound within about two decades.

Kerry also spearheaded the American effort to conclude the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015.

blood-falls-and-taylor-glacier-antarctica-courtesy-us-dept-of-state
Blood Falls and Taylor Glacier, both located near McMurdo Station, are among the examples of Antarctic geographic features observed by U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry during his visit to the continent Nov. 11-12.
Image courtesy U.S. Department of State.

Washington voters reject historic carbon tax proposal

Anacortes Refinery
This refinery, operated by Texas-based Tesoro Corp., is one of Washington’s major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

Voters in Washington state defeated last week the nation’s first proposal to enact a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

The tax was expected to raise about $2 billion per year from levies on gasoline and fossil fuel-generated electricity. It would have assessed a $15 per metric ton levy on carbon dioxide emissions beginning in July, a rate that would have risen steadily, taking into account inflation, until it reached $100 per metric ton in 40 years.

Gasoline importers and power plant operators would have been the principal payers of the new tax.

To offset the revenues generated by the carbon emissions tax, the measure specified that Washington’s sales tax would be cut by one percent over a period of about 18 months and that a tax on businesses would be reduced by a fraction of a percent.

That provision proved to be controversial among advocates for the poor and even many environmental groups, who wanted revenue gained from the carbon tax to support programs aimed at reducing the state’s climate impact.

“The only way to combat climate change fast enough is to both cut pollution and invest in clean energy solutions like wind and solar power,” a statement released by the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy said. “And doing it right includes investing in communities and workers hardest hit by pollution and the transition off dirty fossil fuels.”

Not every environmental organization opposed the initiative. Audubon Washington, a coordinating entity for 25 local National Audubon Society chapters in Washington, backed it.

Gail Gatton, the organization’s executive director, said that Audubon members were mostly concerned about whether I-732 would help to combat anthropogenic climate change, not about its fiscal implications.

“That’s not our issue,” she said. “We really look at it through the lens of whether it will reduce carbon emissions. Even a small step in the right direction is something we’ll support.”

I-732 also called for a tax credit of up to $1,500 for about 460,000 low-income households.

A number of climate scientists supported the initiative. James Hansen, a former NASA climatologist now with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, wrote an editorial for the Seattle Times that urged Washington’s electorate to vote for the proposal.

“The most efficient way to phase out fossil fuels is a steadily rising carbon fee collected from fossil-fuel companies and distributed uniformly to the public,” Hansen wrote. He stressed that the initiative would lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve the state’s economy:

“The public should support this “carbon fee and dividend.” Wealthy people will pay more in increased prices than they receive in the dividend. However, economic studies show that carbon fee-and-dividend spurs the economy, increases the gross national product, creates millions of jobs and rapidly reduces fossil-fuel use. Most people would come out ahead.”

Dr. Cecilia M. Bitz, a climatologist at the University of Washington, stressed that  lower carbon emissions is crucial if humanity is to keep the extent of atmospheric warming to a manageable and possibly safe amount.

“Roughly, what we have emitted today would reach about 1.5 degrees [Celsius],” she said.

Bitz explained that it will be difficult to keep the change in the planet’s average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, a goal that underlies the Paris Agreement on climate change and which scientists have suggested is a reasonable objective, without stronger measures to encourage emission reduction.

“If we want to achieve those thresholds, we need to start reducing emissions immediately and think of ways to draw down those levels of C02 in the atmosphere,” she said.

More than four dozen scientists affiliated with the University of Washington also spoke in favor of I-732 by publishing an open letter in support of the measure.

“This revenue-neutral measure offers the most progressive change in our tax code in decades and represents a bipartisan effort that rejects ideology,” the letter argued. “While many interrelated social and environmental needs demand out attention, complex problems are best solved one step at a time.”

Bitz, who signed the letter, said that she recognizes that the measure did not address the equity concerns of some environmental advocates and organizations dedicated working to assist low income families.

“I feel the urgency was so great that I was willing to overlook deficiencies and I think strongly the way it was written was intended to reach conservative and progressive people alike by making it revenue neutral,” she said. “I think that was a strength.”

Revenue neutrality may not have been as obvious of a strength as advocates of the initiative believed, though. An analysis by the Washington Department of Revenue concluded that the measure would reduce state tax receipts by more than $670 million between fiscal years 2017-2021.

The state, which has no income tax, relies heavily on sales taxes to support government services and operations. Moreover, Washington is under a Dec. 2012 state supreme court order to increase funding for its public schools and was held in contempt in 2014 because it has failed to abide by that mandate.

Gatton said that she thinks the controversy over the measure’s revenue neutrality may have been a key factor in its defeat.

“With the complicated funding structure, and with our government under court orders about funding education and funding  mental health issues, people didn’t tend to believe it was revenue neutral,” she said. “The I-732 camp was never able to get over that perception in people’s minds even though there were a number of independent studies done that found that it was as about as revenue neutral as you’re going to get.”

On Tuesday I-732 failed when 59 percent of Evergreen  State voters  said “no”to the new carbon tax.

Bitz said that she believes that proponents of a carbon tax will re-visit the issue in the future.

“If the richest country in the world is not doing its part, how can the rest of the world justify any kind of economic hardship they may incur by adding a cost to energy?,” she said. “It’s not free.”

UPDATE, Nov. 15, 2016, 9:15 am MST: Comments of Dr. Cecilia Bitz were added.

UPDATE, Nov. 18, 2016, 9:41 am MST: Comments of Gail Gatton were added.

Paris Agreement takes effect; American presidential winner casts shadow over international effort to fight climate change

The Paris Agreement on climate change took effect on Nov. 4, days before American voters elected as their President a candidate who has promised to abandon the nation’s commitment to fighting climate change.

According to a press release issued by the United Nations on Nov. 5, the accord has become operative faster than any other recent international agreement.

“The speed at which countries have made the Paris’s Agreement’s entry into force possible is unprecedented in recent experience of international agreements and is a powerful confirmation of the importance nations attach to combating climate change and realizing the multitude of opportunities inherent in the Paris Agreement,” Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in a statement.

The agreement, which was reached last December, could not begin to bind the nations that developed it until thirty days from the date on which the number of countries to ratify it reached 55 and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions accounted for by the ratifying countries reached 55 percent of the worldwide total.

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Nations that are parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are meeting this month in Morocco.

Parties to the UNFCCC are now gathered for their 22nd annual meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco to establish a governing body that will oversee implementation of the Paris Agreement and rules to guide nations in their compliance with it.

The Paris Agreement does not limit national greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, it requires signatory nations to specify Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. INDCs are used to detail each country’s effort to limit the atmospheric temperature increase caused by human activities to less than 2 degrees Celsius. Nations that do not meet their INDC obligation are not penalized.

Since the accord took effect, uncertainty about its future has increased around the world in the aftermath of the U.S. election. Although he did not win the majority of votes cast by Americans, New York real estate developer and reality TV star Donald J. Trump will become the nation’s chief executive because he carried a majority of the state-based votes that will be cast in the country’s archaic Electoral College.

Trump defeated former secretary of state and senator Hillary Clinton, along with a slew of minor party candidates including Libertarian former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, to capture the presidency.

Trump’s comments during the long political campaign leading up to the election indicated that the United States may abandon the Paris Agreement. Trump said in May that he would “cancel” the American commitment to it.

Earlier statements by the Republican businessman, who has no political experience, also indicate that there is a risk that the country which emits the most greenhouse gases might quit the effort to limit them. Trump has said, for example, that he believes climate change is a “hoax” developed and encouraged by China.

Since his election on Nov. 8 Trump has made no public comments about his plans for continued U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. However, he has chosen a well-known climate science denier, Myron Ebell of the libertarian advocacy group Competitive Enterprise Institute, to manage the transition of personnel and policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump has also indicated that he is considering several oil executives and at least one politician who is adamantly in favor of increasing American fossil fuel production to lead the U.S. Department of Interior, which regulates energy exploration and extraction on public lands and on the continental shelf.

The United States cannot formally leave the Paris Agreement for four years, according to its terms. However, Trump has a number of options for limiting or preventing its impact on the country’s fossil fuel extraction and use. He could, for example, re-characterize the deal as a treaty and submit it to the U.S. Senate, controlled by Republicans, for ratification. Ratification would be unlikely. Trump could, if he desired to land a stronger blow against international climate change diplomacy, pull the United States out of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He could also simply ignore the INDCs agreed to by the administration of President Barack Obama, a path that would result in little tangible consequence for the U.S. other than international condemnation.

A Reuters report published Saturday indicates that Trump has not backed down from his stated desire to abandon the Paris Agreement. The article, citing anonymous sources close to the president-elect, said that Trump will move quickly to terminate any American commitment to international climate change policy and programs.

Other nations have continued to act in support of the Paris Agreement since its Nov. 4 effective date.

Australia announced Thursday that it had ratified the accord, joining 108 other nations that have done so.

The country’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said at a press conference that Australia expects to meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2030.

“Almost a year from the Paris Conference, it is clear the agreement was a watershed, a turning point,” he said. “The adoption of a comprehensive strategy has galvanised the international community and spurred on global action.”

“As you know, we are playing our part with ambitious targets. We are on track to meet and indeed beat our 2020 targets. We will review our climate and energy policies next year to ensure that we meet, as we believe we will and are committed to do, to meet our 2030 targets under the agreement.”

Botswana, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, and Italy ratified the Paris Agreement on Nov. 11, Pakistan ratified it on Nov. 10, Japan on Nov. 8, and Gambia on Nov. 7.

Those national decisions followed a string of other ratifications earlier in November: Denmark, Estonia, Gabon, Ireland, Jordan,  Luxembourg, South Korea, Sao Tome and Princepe, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Vietnam all adopted it during the first week of the month.

Eighty-eight countries that are parties to the December 2015 agreement have not yet decided whether to formally adopt it.

 

9th Circuit: ESA permits consideration of future climate change impacts in listing decisions

bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, , NOAA
Ice is vital to the survival of bearded seals in the Arctic. Image courtesy NOAA.

A federal appeals court ruled Oct. 24 that federal wildlife officials can consider future climate change impacts when deciding whether to grant Endangered Species Act protections.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Alaska Oil & Gas Association v. Pritzker came in a dispute over the Obama administration’s move to add a population of Pacific bearded seals in Alaska to the list of threatened and endangered species.

“This is a huge victory for bearded seals and shows the vital importance of the Endangered Species Act in protecting species threatened by climate change,” Kristen Monsell, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity who argued the case, said in a statement.

The bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus)  is a pinniped that is native to both the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans. The Pacific bearded seal (E.b. nauticus), a subspecies, is found in marine environments around the Arctic region.

E.b. nauticus is not a deep water species. Instead, as explained by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, “[t]he distribution of bearded seals appears to be strongly associated with shallow water and high biomass of the benthic prey they feed on. They are limited to feeding depths of less than 150–200m.”

The Pacific bearded seal uses ice floes as a platform for mating, birthing, and nursing of their pups and the subspecies is an important food source for polar bears, killer whales, and Pacific walrus.

bearded-seal-range-map-courtesy-noaa
This map shows the range of the bearded seal. Graphic courtesy NOAA.

In 2008 the Center for Biological Diversity asked the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that is responsible for marine mammal conservation, to list two distinct population segments of E.b. nauticus – one native to the Sea of Okhotsk, another native to the Bering and Chukchi Seas – and two other seal species native to Alaskan waters as threatened under the ESA.

NOAA finalized the listing in December 2012, explaining its decision as a necessary response to ongoing human alteration of the planet’s climate:

“The main concern about the conservation status of bearded seals stems from the likelihood that their sea ice habitat has been modified by the warming climate and, more so, that the scientific consensus projections are for continued and perhaps accelerated warming in the foreseeable future. A second concern, related by the common driver of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, is the modification of habitat by ocean acidification, which may alter prey populations and other important aspects of the marine ecosystem.”

Before finalizing the listings, NOAA commissioned a report to examine the conservation status of Pacific bearded seals. Published in 2010, that report used data from the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to conclude that E.b. nauticus would experience enough loss of its favored shallow water ice floe habitat during the species’ mating, birthing, and nursing seasons to be at risk of extinction by the latter part of this century.

The state of Alaska, an oil and gas industry association, and a native Alaskan government sued the Obama administration in federal court in Anchorage in an effort to overturn the listing of both E.b. nauticus populations. Their challenge to the Okhotsk DPS failed because U.S. district judge Ralph R. Beistline held that the plaintiffs lacked standing. That ruling was not challenged on appeal.

As for the Beringia DPS, the plaintiffs main line of legal attack was that the listing was not based on the “best scientific and commercial data available,” as required by 16 U.S.C. § 1533(b)(1)(A). They supported that claim with assertions that there is, at present, a fairly high number of individuals in that population, the size of the population at which extinction would become a realistic threat is not known, that use of climate models to project sea ice conditions past 2050 is not permitted by the ESA, and that NOAA had not shown a connection between seasonal sea ice loss and the continuing viability of the Beringia DPS of E.b. nauticus. The industry-led coalition also pointed to NOAA’s refusal to consider sea ice losses in listing decisions involving other species.

The federal appeals court panel, in an opinion written by Judge Richard A. Paez, had little difficulty in rejecting the arguments. Paez pointed out that the Ninth Circuit has held, in a Feb. 2016 opinion rejecting another ESA challenge brought by AOGA, that IPCC climate models do represent “best available science” and that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has also rejected arguments that IPCC models cannot be used in connection with ESA listing decisions.

The panel emphatically rejected the argument that a lack of certainty inherent in the climate models NOAA used renders them useless as a foundation for a listing decision:

“The fact that climate projections for 2050 through 2100 may be volatile does not
deprive those projections of value in the rulemaking process. The ESA does not
require [the agency] to make listing decisions only if underlying research is ironclad and absolute.”
Monsell pointed out that the Ninth Circuit panel’s decision solidifies the role of climate science in making decisions about implementing the ESA, at least in cases of organisms dependent on frozen Arctic habitats.

“The court firmly affirmed the notion that there’s no debate that temperatures will continue to increase over the remainder of the century and that the effects will be particularly acute in the Arctic,” she said. “It affirmed the notion that the scientific consensus accepted by an overwhelming majority of climate scientists, is that Arctic sea ice will continue to recede through 2100.”

Spokespersons for both AOGA and the state of Alaska told Alaska Dispatch News on Oct. 24 that those entities will consider whether to seek en banc review of the panel decision in Alaska Oil & Gas Association v. Pritzker or whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

Monsell said that she does not think such further review is likely.

“En banc petitions are rarely granted and cert petitions are granted even less frequently,” she explained. “We think the Ninth Circuit opinion is well-reasoned, the right one under the law, and will be upheld and that it’s unlikely to even be reconsidered.”

One of the first disputes that may be affected by the Ninth Circuit’s decision in the bearded seal case is a challenge to the listing of the Arctic subspecies of ringed seal (Phoca hispida hispida) as a threatened species. CBD included P.h. hispida in the same petition that asked for the listing of E.b. nauticus.

NOAA listed P.h. hispida as threatened in December 2012 and, as they did in response to the designation of the Pacific bearded seal as threatened, the oil industry and several native Alaskan organizations challenged that action in federal court.

In March 2016 U.S. district judge Ralph R. Beistline ruled, as he had in the challenge to the bearded seal listing, that NOAA’s use of climate science models to project habitat loss later in the 21st century is inconsistent with the ESA’s mandate to use only the “best available scientific and commercial data available” when making listing decisions.

Monsell said that she is optimistic that the Ninth Circuit will reverse Beistline’s decision in the Arctic ringed seal case, too.

“There’s a stronger case for listing the ringed seal in some ways because of the unique habitat needs,” she explained. “Ringed seals, unlike other seal species, dig snow caves and they need not only a certain amount of ice, but also a certain amount of snow on top of the ice to build them.”

The legal limbo to which NOAA’s sister wildlife agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, consigned Pacific walrus (Obodenus rosmaurs divergens) in 2011 may also be affected. USFWS specified that O.r. divergens is a candidate for ESA listing on grounds that it lacks the resources to do the work needed to add the animal to the federal list of threatened and endangered species.

A July 2011 litigation settlement agreement between USFWS and CBD requires USFWS to make a decision about listing the Pacific walrus before the end of August 2017.

Not all organisms affected by ongoing human alteration of the atmosphere are found in the Arctic. USFWS is likely to face decisions about whether to list other species that are likely to lose habitat, and which may already be experiencing habitat loss, as climate change proceeds.

Monsell pointed to the American pika (Ochotona princeps), a subspecies of moose (Alces alces andersoni) that is native to the upper Midwest, and the wolverine (Gulo gulo) as examples of American wildlife species that may now be more likely to be added to the federal list of threatened and endangered species as a result of the decision.

USFWS has twice rejected petitions to add the American pika to the list of threatened or endangered species, most recently last month. But new research indicates that O. princeps will suffer as rising temperatures affect their high elevation habitat. A paper published earlier this year concluded that the tiny relative of the rabbit is likely to be extirpated in at least some of its refuges scattered around mountainous areas of the West.

“The consensus of all the projections is decline,” Dr. Chris Ray, a biologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research who has extensively studied the species, said. “I would hazard an estimate that most projections under moderate climate scenarios project maybe a loss of at least 50 percent of the suitable habitat during this century.”

Unfortunately, the plight of the pika also indicates that currently available climate models may not help scientists assess conservation prospects for every species.

Ray explained that biologists do not yet understand enough about the impacts of a warming atmosphere on the sub-surface habitat pikas depend upon to escape daytime heat.

“We don’t necessarily have enough information about the process by which pikas are affected by climate or other stressors,” she said. “We don’t understand the process well enough to model them in great detail.”

american-pika-courtesy-wikimedia
The American pika is native to the mountains of the west and is usually found in boulder fields above treeline. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

That uncertainty has also been a barrier to securing ESA protection for  the wolverine.

Opponents of a listing argued that models of future snow cover, an indication of habitat quality for the species, are too unreliable.

USFWS ultimately backed away from an earlier proposal to designate G. gulo as threatened because, among other reasons, the agency did “not have sufficient information to understand the specific response of wolverines to future effects of changes in climate.”

A U.S. district judge in Montana rejected that rationale in April 2016. In his decision, Judge Dana Christensen ordered USFWS to reconsider its decision to deny the wolverine ESA protection. He emphasized that federal wildlife agencies are to take a proactive approach to species conservation under the ESA:

“It is the undersigned’s view that if there is one thing required of the Service under the ESA, it is to take action at the earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation.”

As for the moose of the upper Midwest, USFWS decided in June that the population of the animal in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin is a candidate for addition to the list of threatened and endangered species.

 

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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.

ramagundam-super-thermal-power-station-telangana-india-courtesy-wikimedia
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.