Photo: Heads of delegations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), which led to the signing of the Paris Agreement. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. - Photo: 2016

UN Special Event to Fast-Track Climate Treaty Ratifications

By Rizwy Raheem

UNITED NATIONS (IDN) – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who hails the Climate Change agreement as one of the political legacies of his 10-year tenure in office, is hosting a special event in September urging member states to deposit their instruments of ratification so that the treaty can come into force before he steps down end December.

The invitation for the September 21 event has been sent out to world leaders who will be attending the annual General Assembly sessions.

The agreement, which was finalized in Paris in December 2015, will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries – accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the Secretary-General.

So far, 178 countries have signed the agreement but only 19 have ratified the historic pact. The United States and China, have publicly committed to joining the Paris Agreement later this year.

The announcement of the proposed event coincides with a report from the Elders, a think tank of former political leaders, who are critical of the slow ratification process.

The Elders highlight two major concerns: Firstly, none of the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gases have ratified the Paris Agreement. The 19 countries that have to date deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval with the UN account for only a tiny 0.18% of total emissions.

Secondly, leaders are still making investment decisions that run contrary to the Paris Agreement. The G7 industrialized nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – failed to take action to end fossil fuel subsidies when they met in Japan in May, whilst G20 governments are still providing $444 billion a year in support for fossil fuels, which is nearly four times the amount of global subsidies to renewables.

The Elders warn that climate action, since Paris, was insufficient and risks jeopardising the wider success of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are targeted to end in 2030.

“What we are seeing so far this year does not convince us that leaders, especially of wealthy and large emitting countries, are acting in accordance with the vision they publicly embraced in Paris,” The Elders said. “Without action to reduce carbon emissions and increase resilience, development cannot be sustainable.”

The Elders, a group founded by Nelson Mandela back in 2007, include Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan (Chair), Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland (Deputy Chair), Hina Jilani, Ricardo LagosGraça MachelMary Robinson and Ernesto Zedillo.

The Secretary-General has already asked member states to address four topics: Firstly, to provide an update on how their governments will implement their national climate plans and integrate them into their overall sustainable development plans.

Secondly, to provide a roadmap for increasing ambition over time to achieve the overall aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks, strive for below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Thirdly, to indicate their governments’ timetable for ratifying the Paris Agreement; and fourthly, to share how they are accelerating climate action before 2020 by drawing on the ingenuity, resources and efforts of all sectors of society.

In his invitation letter to world leaders, the Secretary-General has said, “The next step in our collective journey to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future is to ensure the rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement. Doing so will create incentives for early implementation of nationally determined contributions and build support within markets and societies for increased climate ambition. I urge you to accelerate your country’s domestic process for ratification of the Agreement this year.”

Ban said he would very much encourage countries like United States and China, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, Argentina, and at least 40 countries, who have committed they will ratify the Paris Agreement before the end of this year.

“It would be much better and desirable – I may be too ambitious to ask you – if we can ratify, make it enter into force, before we go to Marrakesh in November – that would be even much better.”

“If not, by December this year, so that we can really make an accelerated process in implementing this climate change agreement. That’s why I am going to convene this meeting, summit meeting, for those ratifiers. All who are committed to ratify. And please make sure that your country makes an accelerated process of ratification of this agreement.”

The Paris Climate Agreement, adopted by 195 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015 in Paris, calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 July 2016]

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

Photo: Heads of delegations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), which led to the signing of the Paris Agreement. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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