It took two decades for the annual Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to adopt a universal agreement. Rays of hope have spurred among the global community ever since the unprecedented Paris Agreement (PA) was adopted on the 12th December, 2015 by the 195 countries participating in COP21. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the Agreement calls for multilateral efforts by all the Parties with common but differentiated responsibilities, to set domestic targets to shift towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy, strengthening sustainable development.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has invited all world leaders for a high-level signing ceremony of the historic Paris Agreement. It will be open for signature for a year, until the 21st of April, 2017. Besides, Article 21, paragraph 1, of the Paris Agreement states that: “This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.”
55 signatories and 55% of global GHG emissions, what does that represent ? Check out our very first Negographics for a breakdown :
(Data: CAIT Climate Data Explorer 2015. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute. Available online at: http://cait.wri.org) (Click on the picture for full size)
More than 150 nations including major emitters like the USA, China and India have already confirmed their will to sign the Agreement on the first day. The final number of signing Parties is expected to surpass the previous record of 119 signatures gathered by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea¹ on Dec. 10, 1982. Signing is just an initiation which should foster ratification of the Agreement within countries’ domestic legal procedures.
So far, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have taken the lead in this process, as Fiji Islands, followed by Marshall Islands and Maldives have ratified the Agreement first. In other countries however, it is likely to take a bit more time². The European Union, for example, has to set its so-called “burden sharing” before its member states can start the ratification process. Still, Ségolène Royal, the new COP president, recently announced that she was optimistic, and that we could reasonably expect the Agreement to enter in force by 2018. But before that happens, and that the first Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1) takes place, COP21 has set a relatively high number of issues that have to be dealt with, in particular by the newly created subsidiary body of the UNFCCC : the Ad Hoc working group on the Paris Agreement (APA)³.
At first glance everything looks perfect, but the milestone achieved in Paris has yet to be confirmed. The US Presidential Election this year puts into question the ratification itself if it isn’t achieved early. The legacy may not live on in case a of Republican win. In addition, a recommendation note⁴ from the Third World Network suggests developing countries should not rush for the signature on the first day, in order to ensure the leverage needed for the provision of USD 100 billion annually in climate finance from 2020 on. Some countries, such as Nicaragua, would even like to reopen negotiations, as they consider the Agreement unbalanced.
Nevertheless, many countries are coming forward with self interest for the signing ceremony, including India, which previously had an image of poor advocate in environmental policies. Laurence Tubiana, the lead negotiator of the Paris Agreement, now appointed climate champion⁵, recently declared that she was pretty confident on the fact that countries would from now focus their attention on the implementation of the PA instead of trying to re-negotiate it.
Authors: Bindu Bhandari is an international delegate in COP21 from CliMates also COP in My City leader from Nepal,involved in CliMates since end of 2013. She has been advocating as a youth campaigner for youth empowerment and inclusiveness at grassroot levels. She is also a Regional ambassador at Tunza Eco- generation and passionate on volunteering with a sincere concern on environmental issues.