Signing the Paris Agreement

paris_agreement_logo_transparentOn this Friday, April 22 – Earth Day – 155 country leaders are coming to New York City to sign the Paris Agreement adopted on December 12, 2015 in Paris.  The signing ceremony will be held at the United Nations.

China and the United States continued the bilateral leadership role forged in the November 2014 US-China climate change announcement and continued in the Paris negotiations by signaling to UNFCCC Parties their intent to sign the agreement and begin the process of international ratification in 2016. As of today (T-3), all big emitters except Russia have RSVP’d yes to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation.

Developing countries like Barbados, Belize, the Maldives, Samoa, and Tuvalu  – many of whom work in the AOSIS negotiation group, the Climate Vulnerable Forum, and the COP 21 headline-grabbing High Ambition Coalition  – will sign AND deliver their ratification instruments. This trend has many wondering if the Paris Agreement will meet its entry into force requirements (ratification by 55 countries representing 55% of global GHG emissions) sooner than the anticipate 2020 start date. Eliza Northrop of the World Resources Institute predicts that “it’s likely it could come into effect in 2017. It could even happen this year.”

Some of the current momentum is scientific and some in political.  Several recent studies have clocked global temperature increase already at 1°C, making the 1.5°C aim of the Paris Agreement only achievable with significant action before 2020.  In the political realm, President Obama has made international climate change leadership one of his legacy issues; committing the US to it before his term expires would continue the US’s participation in the new agreement for at least the next four years, regardless of who wins the November elections.  Under Article 28 of the Paris Agreement, Parties may only notify the UNFCCC of an intent to withdraw three years after their ratification of the treaty and the withdrawal does not take effect until another year has passed.