As leaders met in New York for the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, the world is on the cusp of the Paris Agreement going into effect as 31 more countries formally joined the agreement today. To date, 60 countries that account for almost 48 percent of the world’s emissions have formally joined the Paris Agreement. And many more are quickly moving to take that final step and formally join this year. The Paris Agreement is very likely to enter into force this year, marking a huge milestone in international efforts to address climate change.
After an official ceremony at the U.N. 31 more countries have formally joined the agreement. This includes (see here for the full list of countries that have taken this formal step):
- Brazil (5th largest emitter in the world);
- Mexico (13th largest emitter in the world);
- Ukraine (23rd largest emitter in the world);
- United Arab Emirates (first Middle East country);
- Morocco (host of the next annual meeting of climate ministers); and
- Thailand (22nd largest emitter in the world).
As a result, the world has crossed one threshold for the Paris Agreement to enter into force—passing the 55 country threshold. The 60 countries that have formally joined the Paris Agreement account for almost 48 percent of the world’s emissions—putting the world less than eight percent short of the second threshold—countries accounting for 55 percent of the world’s emissions—in order for the agreement to take effect. The world is now on the cusp of the Paris Agreement entering into force this year.
And more countries have publicly announced their plans to take that step this year including with a new announcement from the South Korean President of their plans to formally join the agreement this year. With these firm public announcements, countries accounting for almost 66 percent of the world’s emissions are expected to have formally joined the Paris Agreement this year. And if the European Union joins this year—as they have recently signaled they are aiming for—countries accounting for more than 76 percent of the world’s emissions will have formally joined the Paris Agreement this year (see figure).
As countries formally join the agreement they also officially convert their “intended” national climate action plans into formal emission reduction targets that they will achieve as a part of the Paris Agreement. These targets are a critical element of the Paris Agreement as they represent the first time that all major countries have emissions reduction targets formally enshrined in an international climate agreement. These targets now become the “to-do” list for each country as they need to finalize in the coming years the necessary domestic laws, policies, and investments to meet these climate targets. Achieving these targets will require concerted effort, but I’m confident that countries will be able to achieve and exceed these targets. We will need more effort from these major countries over time as the world isn’t yet on the trajectory to leave our children and grandchildren a place to live without the grave impacts of climate change.
The Paris Agreement taking effect this year would mark a huge milestone in international efforts to address climate change. It would mean that the first universal legal agreement to address climate change that includes all major countries in concerted efforts to reduce their climate pollution would be in force—a critical moment in efforts to address climate change.