climate week

Credit: Connect4Climate

In its eight year, Climate Week will gather heads of state and environmental stakeholders to discuss how to work together to achieve low carbon solutions. For this year, New York’s Climate Week will coincide with the opening of the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday and many countries are expected to use this occasion to ratify the text they signed in Paris, last December at COP21.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he expects many countries to join which means there’s a good chance the Paris Agreement might enter into force by the end of the year, possibly even before COP22 in Marocco.

Odds favor Paris Agreement coming into force by the end of the year

At COP21, Paris, a total of 197 countries representing 98 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emission agreed to action that would limit warming to two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. The representatives did not adopt the text, though. Rather, it was a formal agreement which requires ratification.

For the COP21 deal to become binding, it needs to be ratified by each country’s government which can be complicated and takes time. It was only “adopted” in Paris, and “signed” in New York in April 2016.

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The pact comes into force when at least 55 countries that collectively sum at least 55% of the world’s carbon emissions need to join, in accordance with Article 21, paragraph 1 of the Paris Agreement. For instance, China, the European Union, the United States, and just a couple other countries like Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa would be enough to bridge the 55% carbon emission threshold, but the deal won’t go through unless the total number of countries involved is at least 55.

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry told international officials that “We are working together to bring that agreement into force as quickly as possible,” during an ocean protection summit at the State Department.

According to the UNFCCC’s official tally, 27 out of the 197 parties have ratified the agreement so far which account for 39.08 percent of global emissions. China and the United States both ratified the Paris Agreement during a historic meeting on September 3, 2016, and on Wednesday morning some experts say the U.N can expect as many as 30 other countries to join during a one-hour General Assembly event.


Credit: UNFCCC

Some of the countries expected to join on Wednesday include Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. But while the number of countries ratifying the Paris Agreement might reach or even exceed 55 after this week’s General Assembly, experts warn that total covered emissions will be shy of the 55 percent required for the historic text to come into legal force.

If by some miracle of chance, both 55 percentile thresholds are reached then the Paris Agreement will become ratified — for those signatory nations. This might lead to an odd situation in Marrakech, Morocco which will host the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) between November 7-18. Negotiations for a host of decisions to guide implementation of the deal will have to start in Marrakech, but that would also mean excluding a number of important parties from the meetings, like Russia or the European Union. This situation seems unlikely, though.

“We want an inclusive COP,” said Moroccan environment ambassador Hakima El Haite. “We don’t want to negotiate and prepare the tools to implement the Paris Agreement with 60 countries or 55 countries.”

Still, the important takeaway is that odds favor a ratification by the end of the year. Japan and Canada said they plan to ratify the deal this year, and their emissions are more than enough to cover any loose ends.

“I think there’s a political sense around the world of the urgency of the problem, and people believe that one of the ways that they can signal their engagement in support of the urgency is to ratify quickly,” said d U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing.