More Countries to Formally Join Paris Agreement Next Week
After international agreements are finalized it often takes years for countries to formally join the agreement and for the agreement to take effect. It took the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change almost two years after it was adopted for that agreement to enter-into-force. On September 21st, a next wave of countries is expected to formally join the Paris Agreement and signal their commitment to continue to act now and deliver stronger climate action in the coming years.
As a result, there is a high likelihood that the Paris Agreement will enter into force this year—less than a year after the agreement was adopted. This would represent rocket speed as most international agreements take at least two years to enter into force. This is a fantastic signal that countries around the world are preparing to take the necessary actions to address climate change and protect our children and grandchildren from the devastation that will occur if we don’t act aggressively. More action will be needed, but the early signs are positive given the pace at which countries formally entered into the agreement.
World is on the cusp of the Paris Agreement entering into force
To date, twenty-seven countries accounting for thirty-nine percent of the world’s emissions have formally joined the Paris Agreement. A number of countries—such as Brazil and Mexico—have taken the required domestic steps to join the agreement but haven’t yet officially become members of the agreement as they have to “deposit” the official paperwork with the U.N. Officials have recently said that they expect twenty additional countries will formally join the agreement when countries meet on September 21st for a ceremony in New York. This next wave will mean that at least 47 countries that account for over forty-five percent of the world’s emissions will have formally joined the agreement by September 21st (see table below).
And more have publicly announced that they will formally join the agreement this year including a number of major emitters such as Japan, Indonesia, Australia, and Canada. European Union leaders just signaled that they will try to formally join this year, maybe even by early October. With these countries sixty-four countries that account for almost 72 percent of the world’s emissions are expected to have formally joined the Paris Agreement this year. That would mean that the agreement would enter into force this year as it only requires 55 countries that account for 55 percent of the world’s emissions for the agreement to take effect (see figure).
Rocket speed for an international agreement to enter into force
Translating international agreements into international law usually takes years. As one U.N. official recently said: “it usually takes years, decades and sometimes never to cross these thresholds for entry into force”. The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change took almost two years to cross those thresholds, the Kyoto Protocol took over seven years, and the Montreal Protocol took a year and half. As the New York Times pointed out: “Experts in international law said they could not think of an example of a major United Nations agreement entering into legal force less than a year after it was finalized”.
The quick pace could signal that world leaders want to be remembered as being on the right side of history. After all, when the history books are written for the 21st Century, which leader wants to be known as the last one to join an agreement to address the gravest challenge of this century? I doubt the history books will look fondly on that blank chapter in a leader’s story: “Chapter 12 – Didn’t join historic agreement to address climate change”.
Hard work ahead after agreement takes effect
Once the Paris Agreement enters into force countries will have to provide further details on some of the implementation rulebooks and then evolve the system to take on new dynamics over time. And most importantly, countries will have to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of policymaking to drive their economies towards a low carbon and climate resilient future. Countries have a solid base to build upon as they have more advanced clean energy policies, new steps on deforestation, and more tools to spur energy efficiency.
We need more action, faster. So let’s hope that the quick entry-into-force is a sign that countries are prepared to take even more decisive domestic action in the coming years.