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World leaders sign Paris climate agreement

22 Apr 2016 18:55 (+01:00 GMT)
World leaders sign Paris climate agreement

Washington, 22 April (Argus) — Representatives from more than 170 countries accounting for roughly 90pc of global greenhouse gas emissions today signed the Paris agreement on climate change.

World leaders gathered at UN headquarters in New York to sign the agreement reached in December, calling it a major milestone in a global campaign to address climate change. But they cautioned that more must be done in the coming months and years to bring the agreement into force and to further efforts to curb emissions.

"Today is a day to mark, and to celebrate, the hard work done by so many to win the battle of securing the Paris agreement. But knowing what we know, this is also a day to recommit ourselves to actually win this war," US secretary of state John Kerry said.

The deal calls on nearly 200 countries to take steps to limit the increase in global average temperatures to 2°C. It includes binding obligations for countries to report on their progress in achieving their emissions pledges, but it does not make those commitments legally binding.

At least 55 countries representing 55pc of global emissions need to formally join the agreement before it can enter into force. About a dozen nations, accounting for less than 1pc of emissions, today submitted their formal documents of ratification of the agreement in addition to signing it.

The US and China, which account for nearly 40pc of emissions, reaffirmed their intent to join the agreement this year. Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli said his country intends to finalize its adoption of the accord before it hosts the G20 summit this September.

"We will work hard to earnestly implement the Paris agreement," he said.

The US plans to treat the accord as an executive agreement, rather than submit it to a Republican-controlled Senate that almost certainly would refuse to ratify it. Previous administrations have used such a process for other international agreements. The State Department has not set a specific timeline for joining but expects to do so by year's end.

French president Francois Hollande said his country would quickly ratify the agreement. Hollande said he would encourage the EU, which accounts for 13pc of global emissions, to "set an example" by doing the same before the end of the year. The European Commission said it intends to present a proposal to the EU Council to ratify the Paris agreement on behalf of the EU before the end of the summer.

The US has pledged to cut its GHG emissions by 26-28pc from 2005 levels by 2025. China has pledged that its emissions will reach a peak by 2030, if not sooner.

The primary vehicle for meeting the US pledge is the Clean Power Plan, which is expected to reduce power plant CO2 emissions by 32pc by 2030. But the US Supreme Court put it on hold in February pending the outcome of litigation against the regulations. Those court battles may continue until 2018.

The US also has taken steps to roughly double the fuel efficiency of new cars by 2025 and is proposing to slash methane emissions from oil and gas production by up to 45pc by 2025.

The turnout at the ceremony and statements by world leaders suggest the agreement could take effect this year, much sooner than many officials had previously expected.

But even if countries act quickly to ratify the agreement, they still must work out many details for its implementation. These include establishing mechanisms for transferring emissions credits between countries that wish to use carbon markets, reporting and verifying emissions and financing developing countries' actions. The issues will be part of the agenda for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, in November.

Critics of President Barack Obama's climate policies warned that participating in the Paris agreement would damage the US economy. "This international climate deal will hamstring our energy producers and hurt families across the country," US senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) said.