Kazakhstan, Zambia, Cuba, Kenya join Paris Agreement

Four more nations ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change in December, bringing the number that have done so to 121.

Kazhakstan notified the United Nations of its formal adoption of the accord on Dec. 6.

Zambia was next, formally agreeing to the Paris Agreement on Dec. 9.

Cuba and Kenya ratified the landmark Dec. 2015 international agreement on Dec. 28.

The Paris Agreement took effect Nov. 4, 2016. Adopting nations agree to prepare Nationally Determined Contributions to the reduction of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

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Trump, in NYT interview, appears to backtrack on promise to exit Paris Agreement

President-elect Donald J. Trump may be re-thinking his earlier statements that promised a U.S. exit from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

During a Tuesday interview with reporters and editors at the New York Times, Trump said that he has an “open mind” about the landmark international deal to address accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

I’m looking at it very closely,” the New York real estate developer and reality TV star said in the interview.

Some foreign leaders have pushed back in response to Trump’s earlier comments.

China’s leading negotiator on climate change issues, Xie Zhenhua, criticized the President-elect before the general election occurred.

Zhenhua told Reuters on Nov. 1 that “a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends.”

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has also cautioned Trump about any hasty repudiation of the Paris Agreement. In an editorial co-authored with President Barack Obama and published in the German newspaper Wirtschaftswoche, Merkel emphasized that  American cooperation with its allies is crucial to both domestic and international prosperity.

“Today we find ourselves at a crossroads—the future is upon us, and we will never return to a pre-globalization economy,” Merkel and Obama wrote. “Germans and Americans we must seize the opportunity to shape globalization based on our values and our ideas. We owe it to our industries and our peoples—indeed, to the global community—to broaden and deepen our cooperation.”

Several hundred corporations and significant investors have also taken Trump to task for his expressed willingness to scuttle the Paris Agreement. An open letter released earlier this month urged Trump to consider that the the deal could well lead to “trillions” of dollars in profit as the world undergoes an energy transformation.

“We want the US economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy,” the statement said. “Cost-effective and innovative solutions can help us achieve these objectives. Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness.”

The Paris Agreement, which was finalized in Dec. 2015, is not a treaty. As an executive agreement between the U.S. President and the leaders of other nations, it did not require ratification by the U.S. Senate. A future President can lawfully terminate the agreement anytime he or she desires to do so.

 

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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.