By J Nastranis
Over the past decade, Ban Ki-moon has worked ceaselessly to bring countries together to accelerate the global response to climate change. As he is fond of saying, he has visited communities on the climate frontlines, from the Arctic to the Amazon, and has witnessed how climate impacts are already devastating lives, livelihoods and prospects for a better future.
Some two months ahead of relinquishing his post as UN Secretary-General on completion of the second five-year term on December 31, he will have his efforts rewarded, allowing him to leave behind a valuable legacy.
The UN announced on October 5 that the historic Paris Agreement to address climate change would enter into force on November 4 – in the aftermath of enough countries having signed onto the landmark accord to bring it to the emissions threshold.
“This is a momentous occasion,” said Ban as the latest instruments of ratification were accepted in deposit. “What once seemed unthinkable, is now unstoppable. Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is a testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation, grounded in national action, is essential to meet the climate challenge,” he added.
But he cautioned that the work of implementing the agreement still lay ahead. “Now we must move from words to deeds and put Paris into action. We need all hands on deck – every part of society must be mobilized to reduce emissions and help communities adapt to inevitable climate impacts,” Ban stressed.
The Agreement provides that it shall enter into force 30 days after 55 countries, representing 55 percent of global emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance or accession with the Secretary-General. As of October 5, 73 countries and the European Union had joined the Agreement, exceeding the 55 percent threshold for emissions.
The pact was signed in New York on April 22 by 175 countries at the largest, single-day signing ceremony in history. It was adopted in Paris by the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as COP21 in December 2015.
The Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, as well as to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change. Specifically, it seeks to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The requirements for entry into force of the Paris climate accord were satisfied on October 5 when Austria, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Nepal, Portugal and Slovakia, as well as the European Union, deposited their instruments of ratification with the Secretary-General.
Earlier, New Zealand and India signed onto the Agreement, following the 31 countries, which joined at a special event at the UN on September 21 during the UN General Assembly’s general debate. Earlier that month, the world’s two largest emitters, China and the United States, joined the Agreement.
The Agreement will now enter into force in time for the Climate Conference (COP 22) in Morocco in November, where countries will convene the first Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement. Countries that have not yet joined may participate as observers.
Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC in Bonn, said: “Above all, entry into force bodes well for the urgent, accelerated implementation of climate action that is now needed to realize a better, more secure world and to support also the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
“It also brings a renewed urgency to the many issues governments are advancing to ensure full implementation of the Agreement,” she added. “This includes development of a rule book to operationalize the agreement and how international cooperation and much bigger flows of finance can speed up and scale up national climate action plans.” she added.
In an earlier statement, Ban highlighted that strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is “testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation is essential to meet the climate challenge”.
Ban urged all governments and all sectors of society to implement the Paris Agreement in full and to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and support the most vulnerable in adapting to inevitable climate impacts.
Congratulating all of the signatories of the Agreement, the Secretary-General encouraged all countries to accelerate their domestic processes to ratify the Agreement as soon as possible.
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