european-parliament-building
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.

 

 

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.

NATION CONTINENT RATIFICATION DATE
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.

 

 

 

 

 

Reuters reports that U.S. will sign Paris accord even in face of Clean Power Plan stay

Todd Stern
Todd D. Stern is the Obama administration’s leading diplomat on climate change issues. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of State.

The United States will sign the Paris climate accord despite the stay order entered against the Obama administration’s signature greenhouse gas emission reduction program.

Reuters reported Wednesday that Todd D. Stern, the Department of State’s special envoy for climate change, told reporters that the administration would proceed with the multi-national agreement reached in December.

“We’re going to go ahead and sign the agreement this year,” he is quoted as saying in the Reuters article.

American negotiators agreed, as part of the Paris Agreement, to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Because fossil fuel combustion for electricity generation is the single largest contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, the administration’s regulations – called the Clean Power Plan – aimed at forcing new and existing coal-fired power plants to reduce carbon dioxide pollution is a critical component of the U.S. Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) under the Paris Agreement.

The Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote last Tuesday, blocked the Clean Power Plan from going into effect while litigation challenging it proceeds.

One of the justices that voted for the stay, Antonin Scalia, died on Saturday, but there has been no indication that the administration will ask the surviving eight members of the high court to reconsider the Feb. 9 order.

The Paris Agreement opens for signature on April 22. Parties will have one year in which to formally acknowledge their commitment to its terms.