The World Unites to Address Climate Change

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The World Unites to Address Climate Change

With nations regardless of size, economy and power banding together to address climate change, we have once again witnessed a shining moment of our time.

On 4 November 2016, the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change is set to enter into force after crossing two thresholds indicated on Article 21 of the agreement — having at least 55 countries accounting for 55 percent of the total global greenhouse emissions adopt the agreement.1

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Charter Change, the agreement signed by 197 countries was ratified by 77 countries.2 This figure represents 60 percent of global emissions3, 5 percent more than the target.

The UN has hailed this as a “historic moment” with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noting that the worldwide support to the agreement “is testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation is essential to meet the climate challenge.”4


Why is the Paris Agreement important?

In a previous piece, I highlighted the significance of the Paris Agreement:

  1. It aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees celsius and has an active clause to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees celsius;
  2. It requires countries to stop the release of greenhouse gases and the use of fossil fuels;
  3. Countries are expected to take part in global climate actions through their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) that must be implemented by 2020; and
  4. INDCs are subject to assessments and reviews every five years.

While it has been recognized that the Paris Agreement is far from perfect, it has been hailed as the correct step towards the right direction.

Movers and shakers

Looking back, it is said that nobody actually expected that the Paris agreement will be put in force as early as this 2016. In fact, former UNFCC chief Yvo de Boer has remarked that “it’s a small step for mankind, a giant leap for man.”5

On 22 April a bevy of countries ratified the deal, responsible for only about 1 percent of global emissions. The breakthrough came when China and the U.S., responsible for 38 percent of global emissions6, jointly ratified the Paris Agreement on 03 September.

Heavy smog in Shanghai, China.

“Where there is a will and there is a vision and where countries like China and the United States are prepared to show leadership and to lead by example, it is possible for us to create a world that is more secure, more prosperous and more free than the one that was left for us,” U.S. President Barack Obama said when he confirmed the joint ratification in Hangzhou during the G20 summit this year.7

India, which contribute 4 percent to global emissions ratified the agreement on 02 October despite initial oppositions. The threshold was breached on 4 October when EU backed the deal in a unanimous vote, allowing its member states — France, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Portugal and Malta — to be counted.8

Currently, Russia is the only remaining major greenhouse gas emitter which has not ratified the Paris Agreement. The country is said to be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases at 7.53 percent.9 The country is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and with strong opposition from the big private businesses10, it does not seem that ratification is in the offing.

What’s next

With the Paris Agreement entering into force, much work now needs to be done. On November 4, the Paris Agreement will now be legally binding on the countries that have ratified it. This means that they will now have to abide with all the conditions of the agreement, including coming up with plans for its concrete implementation and upholding climate adaptation actions.


These plans are expected to be drawn up in the upcoming “first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (known as CMA1) will be held in conjunction with the next Conference of the Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)”11 that will start on 07 November in Marrakech, Morocco.

The membership of the CMA1 is significant because it will only be composed of countries and the EU that have ratified the Paris Agreement and will serve as its “governing body, with authority over all substantive, procedural, administrative and operational matters.”12 This means that those countries who have not ratified the climate deal, such as Russia, will be left out of technical discussions and decision-making.

It can be expected that important decisions will have to be made at the CMA1 with the global fight against climate change. This is just the start. But it is definitely a good one at precisely the best moment.

For sure, the fight for sustainability and and a livable planet will be fraught with challenges and landmines in the years to come. However, with a united world, all things are possible.

Show 12 footnotes

  1.  World Resources Institute. “FAQs About How the Paris Agreement Enters into Force.”
  2.  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Paris Agreement – Status of Ratification.”
  3.  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Landmark Climate Change Agreement to Enter into Force.”
  4.  World Resources Institute. “FAQs About How the Paris Agreement Enters into Force.”
  5.  Schueneman, Thomas. (12 October 2016). “Art of the Possible Redux: How the Paris Agreement Came Into Force and What Happens Next.”
  6.  Yeo, Sophie. (06 October 2016). “Explainer: Paris Agreement on climate change to ‘enter into force’.
  7.  Phillips, Tom, Harvey Fiona and Yuhas, Alan. (03 September 2016). “Breakthrough as US and China agree to ratify Paris climate deal.”
  8.  Yeo, Sophie. (06 October 2016). “Explainer: Paris Agreement on climate change to ‘enter into force’.
  9.  Phillips, Tom, Harvey Fiona and Yuhas, Alan. (03 September 2016). “Breakthrough as US and China agree to ratify Paris climate deal.”
  10.  Davydova, Angelina. (05 October 2016). “What’s holding Russia back from ratifying the Paris Climate Agreement.”
  11.  Northrop, Eliza, Waskow, David and Dagnet, Yamide. (03 October 2016) “INSIDER: CMA1, the First Meeting Under the Paris Agreement — Why It’s Significant and How It Could Happen at COP22.”
  12. ibid

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