Paris climate deal to enter into force in November

7 October 2016

The Paris Agreement on climate change is set to enter into force next month, officials have confirmed, after receiving a series of key ratifications this week. The landmark climate deal has now surpassed the two thresholds needed for its activation, allowing it to enter into force on 4 November.

Governments agreed last year that the deal would be activated 30 days after 55 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions deposit instruments of ratification.

The European Parliament approved the deal on Tuesday, which followed a vote by the bloc’s environment ministers on Friday agreeing to go ahead with ratification of the climate deal at the EU level.

EU member states will also be required to ratify the deal, given that certain elements require implementation at the national level. Seven member states – Austria, Germany, France, Hungary, Portugal, Malta, and Slovakia – have already completed these domestic processes, which helped bring the Paris accord over the emissions threshold. (See Bridges Weekly, 29 September 2016)

“I encourage you to build on your proud legacy, and to support the speedy ratification of the Paris Agreement,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday ahead of the vote in the European Parliament.

“Such a swift embrace would be a remarkable achievement for any international agreement. It would be especially impressive for one that addresses one of the most complex, all-embracing issues of our time. In the past few weeks, we have seen tremendous momentum from all corners of the globe for bringing the Paris Agreement to life this year,” he continued.

“We have the policies and tools to meet our targets, steer the global clean energy transition, and modernise our economy,” EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said in a press release on Tuesday.

Adopted just last December, support for the Paris Agreement has moved this process forward at a record pace, boosted by early commitments from major emitters. The US and China – the world’s largest emitters – ratified the deal jointly in early September while India, which is the fourth largest, did so on this past Sunday. (See Bridges Weekly, 7 September 2016)

The expected Indian ratification was delivered to UN headquarters on the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the country’s independence movement and respected philosopher.

“There is no better way to commemorate the great Mahatma Gandhi and his legacy of peace for people and the planet,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said on Sunday. 

Notably, Canada and New Zealand also ratified the accord this week, bringing the total of parties who have ratified to 74. These cover 58.82 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Of the world’s top ten emitters, Indonesia, Japan, and Russia had yet to submit their instruments of ratification by press time.

Marrakesh expectations

The Paris Agreement also provides that the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, to be known as CMA1 for short, will be held in conjunction with next scheduled UNFCCC meet. This is due to take place in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 7-18 November.

The CMA will be the deal’s governing body, with primary authority over its implementation, and only parties that have joined the agreement can take decisions that affect it. Non-participants can participate as observers.

According to the Paris Agreement and accompanying decisions from last year’s UNFCCC meet, CMA1 would be required to take a number of decisions to help implement the deal.

This includes, for example, providing guidance for accounting countries’ individual national climate action plans; adopting common modalities, procedures and guidelines for the transparency of action and support; and giving guidance for countries voluntarily cooperating on emissions reduction, among other things. Some areas of the Paris Agreement, such as accounting for public climate finance, are assigned a 2018 finalisation date. 

At last year’s climate meet, parties had created an ad hoc working group on the Paris Agreement (APA) to help prepare the entry into force of the deal along with the UNFCCC’s existing subsidiary bodies. This would include overseeing the draft decisions to be forwarded to CMA1. Parties agreed an agenda for the APA during intersessional meetings in May in Bonn, Germany.

Discussions in Bonn also touched on the potential “early” entry into force of the Paris Agreement, given that stakeholders had previously expected a start date by around 2020. At the time, several parties suggested that the occurrence would not affect the rights of all parties to participate in the rulemaking process. (See Bridges Weekly, 2 June 2016)

According to some climate watchers, parties could manage the situation by opening CMA1 and then suspending it, either immediately or after having addressed some technical issues. Parties will also need to decide whether the CMA oversees ongoing preparatory work or whether to continue with the current arrangements through the APA and other bodies.

In the meantime, submissions from parties on various implementation areas are already being made to the UNFCCC’s subsidiary bodies. Some examples include proposals for accounting guidance on voluntary cooperation on emissions reductions, which can involve the transfer of international emissions credits. These submissions also include views on the rules, modalities, and procedures for a mechanism to contribute to total greenhouse gas reduction, whereby emissions slashed in one country could be used by another to reach its climate action targets.

Elsewhere, the 191 members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) are in the process of finalising a carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation, a sector not covered by the Paris Agreement. The ICAO Assembly concludes on Friday in Montreal, Canada.

ICTSD reporting; “INSIDER: CMA1, the First Meeting Under the Paris Agreement – Why It’s Significant and How it Could Happen at COP22,” WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE, 3 October 2016. This article was initially published in Bridges Weekly, 6 October 2016.

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