From The Guardian (Oliver Milman):
The climate accord is set to be activated on 4 November after the European Union, Canada, Nepal and India all formally ratified the deal. The latest ratifications mean that 73 nations accounting for nearly 57% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are fully committed to the process, meaning the two key thresholds to the agreement have now been met.
Obama said: “Today is a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations. This gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we got. With optimism and faith and hope, we are proving it is possible.”
The US president said the Paris agreement will prove a “turning point” in the fight against climate change, should nations fully commit to cutting emissions. The US and China, the world’s two largest emitters, both ratified the agreement in September.
Obama said the deal, which commits countries to ensuring that the average global temperature doesn’t rise 2C above pre-industrial levels, will “open the floodgates for low-carbon innovation at a scale we haven’t seen before”. But he warned that emissions will need to be scaled back even further, along with mooted cutbacks in aviation and HFC pollution, if runaway climate change is to be avoided.
“No nation, not even one as powerful as ours, can solve this on its own – we have to do this together,” he said. “Even if we meet every target, we will only get to part of where we need to go. But this will help delay or avoid the worst consequences of climate change. It’ll help set bolder targets.”
The Paris agreement, struck last year, calls for all 195 signatories to come up with their own voluntary plans to reduce emissions. While the landmark deal is the first commitment by all countries to reduce emissions, the individual pledges are unlikely to be sufficient to stay within the 2C limit, which could be breached as early as 2050, according to recent research.
Separate studies have shown the world is on course for a temperature rise of around 3.5C by the end of the century, based on the emissions cuts promised in Paris. This would cause a range of disastrous environmental consequences, including heatwaves, sea level rise, species extinctions and spread of disease.
There are doubts that the US is on track even to meet its initial promise to cut emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025 by 2005 levels. In a further complication, Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has promised to withdraw the US from the deal should he win power. However, the ratification locks countries into the deal for four years, so an immediate US exit wouldn’t be possible.
But green groups have celebrated the activation of the Paris deal, pointing to the lightening pace of ratification after decades of international wrangling over climate change. United Nations agreements often take years to come into force, with the Paris deal taking less than a year to pass its ratification thresholds.
“The unprecedented speed of the entry into force of the Paris agreement demonstrates that Paris was not a one-off deal, but rather a long-term commitment to climate action,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, added: “After years of tireless dedication and work toward an international climate deal, the Paris agreement has finally jumped off the page and into reality.
“Now that the agreement is a reality, we must finally align our global energy and economic policies to meet these goals and end subsidies for outdated fossil fuels, transition to 100 percent clean energy, and stop harmful trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that run counter to the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and a key architect of the Paris deal, said the deal should be met with “unbridled optimism.”
“We now we have our starting signal – this is the “go” toward a low carbon future,” she said. “That future is going to be exciting: ending the dominance of fossil fuels will deliver an abundance of innovation and opportunity for all of us.
“We can deliver cleaner air, healthier cities and a new kind of ‘industrial’ revolution underpinned by technologies that enable us to live a prosperous life within the boundaries our planet can sustain. To achieve that, we must now increase our ambition to ensure the legacy of this moment is sealed as a positive pivot point in history.”