Paris climate deal hits threshold to take effect

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Can the world live up to the Paris climate agreement? @bberwyn photo.

Now the real work begins

By Bob Berwyn

The Paris climate agreement has reached the milestones needed to take effect, as 70 countries, representing almost 57 percent of global emissions, have formally signed on to the deal. According to the United Nations, Canada, the European and Nepal deposited their instruments of ratification with the global body Wednesday, Oct. 6. The agreement, aimed at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level, will become effective Nov. 4.

In a prepared statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Global momentum for the Paris Agreement to enter into force in 2016 has been remarkable. What once seemed unthinkable is now unstoppable. ”

Under the agreement, more than 190 countries agreed late last year to try and decarbonize the world’s energy systems by the middle of the century to end the buildup of heat-trapping pollution that has already raised the world’s average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius since 1850. In the past few months, the global temperature has spiked near the 1.5 degree threshold. Climate scientists agree that capping the rise at 2 degrees is critical to avoiding catastrophic climate change impacts like deadly droughts and heatwaves, floods and other extreme weather events.

The treaty also requires richer countries to set up a mitigation fund to help developing countries adapt to impacts. All countries party to the deal must submit individual plans and update them on a regular basis.

Commenting on the news from the Rose Garden, President Barack Obama said that, if the world follows through on the deal’s terms, “history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.” More from the White House here.

Making it real will require a massive transformation of the world’s economy, and despite the good intentions, there are not many strong signs that will actually happen soon enough. Some recent studies have also warned that the planet is just 15 years away from hitting the 1.5 degree threshold, and that without immediate and massive greenhouse gas cuts, the 2-degree Celsius mark will be passed as early as 2050.

Understanding the urgency, the world community may try to ramp up climate action as soon as the COP22 climate conference in Marrakesh in November.

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