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The ceremony at UN headquarters is expected to set a record for the largest number of nations to sign an agreement on the 1st day possible, drawing officials from the US, China, India and other states that brokered the deal in December. Photo: AFP  (AFP)
The ceremony at UN headquarters is expected to set a record for the largest number of nations to sign an agreement on the 1st day possible, drawing officials from the US, China, India and other states that brokered the deal in December. Photo: AFP (AFP)

Over 150 nations set to sign landmark Paris climate deal

Paris climate deal calls for countries to voluntarily reduce fossil-fuel emissions in hopes of limiting global warming to 2C above temperatures at the start of the industrial revolution

New York: Representatives of more than 150 nations are due to gather in New York on Friday to sign the Paris climate accord, setting in motion an unprecedented global effort to reduce pollution and slow rising temperatures linked to floods, heat waves and droughts.

The ceremony at United Nations headquarters is expected to set a record for the largest number of nations to sign an agreement on the first day possible, drawing officials from the US, China, India and other states that brokered the deal in December. It calls for countries to voluntarily reduce fossil-fuel emissions in hopes of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above temperatures at the start of the industrial revolution.

The effort will require titanic shifts in the ways societies generate electricity, fuel vehicles and run factories, in large part by forsaking coal, oil and natural gas for renewable energy. It’s broader than any previous climate agreement, applying to all nations, rich and poor alike. It will cost an estimated $12.1 trillion over the next 25 years for the 195 countries that have said they will sign the agreement, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Also Read: The half degree that will change Earth

“Solving climate change will require perhaps the largest public-private partnership the world has ever attempted," US secretary of state John Kerry, who is signing on behalf of President Barack Obama, said during a speech this month in New York.

Temperatures rising

Even if every nation hits its target, scientists still predict temperatures will continue to rise over the next several decades as the momentum of global warming tapers off, heating the Earth like a roast after it’s removed from an oven. Those advancing temperatures are likely to melt ice caps and shift weather patterns, scientists say, leading to increased flooding, droughts and violent storms.

Still, advocates for addressing climate change said it’s not too late act.

“There is a huge difference between staying within the temperature goals that world leaders set in Paris and the business-as-usual path, which is more than twice that in terms of temperature increases," said Alden Meyer, who has followed climate talks for more than two decades for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US advocacy group.

Nations have set their own emission targets under the deal and have vowed to increase their ambitions every five years. Most set goals for 2025 or 2030. The US and other large developed nations have pledged $100 billion annually to help poorer nations meet their targets.

Ambitious targets

The world’s two largest polluters — China and the US — have set ambitious targets. China has agreed to peak its emissions by about 2030. The US has vowed to cut greenhouse gases by 2025 to levels at least 26 percent below the point they stood in 2005.

Leaders and delegates have as long as one year from Friday to sign the agreement. Once they do, each nation must undertake its own ratification process to formally join the accord. It takes effect once it is ratified by at least 55 countries accounting for 55% of global greenhouse-gas emissions.

China and the US, which combined account for about 40% of emissions, have said they plan to formally join the agreement this year, putting the deal more than two-thirds of the way toward becoming binding.

“That will create a cascading impact across the world, as other countries recognize that the two biggest emitters are fully committed," said Jake Schmidt, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s international program.

Global pressure

President Obama plans for the US to join the accord as an executive agreement without consent from Congress, contending the deal complies with existing US law. The pact would face stiff opposition from Republicans who control Congress and, in many instances, question the science behind climate change.

If a Republican wins the White House in November, the government could pull out of the agreement or block US efforts to meet its goals. A new administration, however, may face significant global pressure to uphold its climate commitments.

“The political consequences globally would be significant," said David Waskow, director of climate initiatives for the World Resources Institute. “It would be quite a strong negative reaction globally ... if any administration were to withdraw." Bloomberg

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