Today the global community has jumped over the final hurdle to bring the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change into full effect. This marks an historic moment in the global transformation to a safer and more prosperous planet.
The Paris Agreement offers a global framework to address humanity’s greatest challenge and transition toward a zero-carbon and climate-resilient future.
Thanks to the diplomatic efforts of many world leaders, the Agreement’s entry into force has come with surprising speed. When the European Union and a number of its member states formally joined today, the Agreement crossed the dual thresholds of 55 Parties (countries and the EU) representing at least 55 percent of global emissions required for the Agreement to go into effect. As of today, 74 Parties representing 58.82 percent of emissions have joined.
So is the Paris Agreement in force now?
Not yet. The Agreement will enter into force 30 days after the dual threshold is crossed. That will be just days before this year’s UN climate conference, COP22, starts in Marrakech on November 7. This means that the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, known in climate-speak as CMA1, will be held in conjunction with COP22.
The Paris Agreement’s progress toward entry into force less than a year after it was adopted last December is among the fastest of any multilateral agreement of its importance in UN history. The Kyoto Protocol took over seven years, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change took nearly two years, while even the widely-supported Montreal Protocol took over a year. Even at Paris last December, where the drive for ambitious climate action was palpable, insiders expected it might take years for the Agreement to enter into force. This rapid movement demonstrates countries’ resolve to take exceptional action on climate change.
What does entry into force mean for national climate action?
The depth and breadth of political support for the Paris Agreement – from countries that are developed and developing, large and small -- is striking. See the Paris Agreement Tracker for a detailed map of countries’ status with regards to the Agreement.
When a country joins the Agreement, it commits to decisive actions and policies at national level. Before the Paris meeting, countries put forward national climate strategies (known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs) that they intend to carry out. These national plans underpin the Paris Agreement; each country defined its own actions rooted in national policy and has now made clear its full buy-in to pursuing them.
Entry into force also means that the countries that have joined are legally bound to the Agreement, both accepting their obligations under it as well as their rights. The Agreement’s legally binding provisions include the requirement for all countries to report their climate actions transparently, collectively take stock of progress, and enhance their climate actions every five years, while also scaling up finance.
What does entry into force mean for international climate negotiations?
Entry into force means that the process of developing rules and processes for implementing the Paris Agreement takes on greater urgency. It was expected that there would be time to do this during the years that it would take for the Agreement to enter into force. Now that entry into force has happened so quickly, operational elements for key issues – such as transparency and the process for taking stock of progress and ramping up ambition – will need to be developed with even greater clarity and focus.
As the Agreement enters into force, the CMA becomes the Agreement’s governing body, with authority over all substantive, procedural, administrative and operational matters. CMA1 will be a key moment in climate action, marking the start of decision-making on how to implement the Paris Agreement and adopt its rules.
CMA1 will determine the process going forward and will need to make sure it is inclusive for all countries and ensures adequate time for negotiations. It will be particularly important to ensure that even those countries whose internal processes to ratify the Agreement may be slower are able to participate in the process to define the rules and mechanisms that will govern the Agreement. One option is to extend CMA1 beyond the meeting in Marrakech, while setting a clear deadline to conclude it, such as in 2018.
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Entry into force of the Paris Agreement signals that the world is truly converging around efforts to tackle the climate challenge. Momentum generated by the success of the Paris Agreement has and should continue to influence efforts by other sectors and international fora to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
These type of international efforts must also be coupled with continued progress by countries at home to deliver on their national climate plans. While we celebrate today, we recognize the hardest work is ahead to turn the transformational promise of the Paris Agreement into reality.