The Paris Agreement on climate change comes into force


Friday November 4, 2016: the date that the 2015 Paris Agreement has officially come into force; the date at which the 190+ countries that signed up to a pledge to reduce carbon emissions will now have to begin taking tangible action.

The threshold required to tip the Paris accord into action was passed on October 5, when 55 of the world’s most polluting nations ratified the agreement, triggering the 30-day countdown for it to come into force.

Compared to previous international treaties of similar magnitude and complexity, the Paris Agreement was ratified relatively quickly, with international support crucially arriving from all of the world’s big players, including China, the U.S., various EU Member States and India.

And while 100 or so countries still have to formally ratify the Agreement, the wheels are now in motion to formally wean the global economy off fossil fuels and towards renewable sources. The ultimate goal is to limit the rise in average world temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius within the century, with the more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees still something to aim for.

However, an analysis by the UN Environment body found that the current emission reduction pledges offered by signatories of the Agreement are not sufficient to reach this target, and even if all were fully implemented immediately, the world would likely be on course for a temperature increase of between 2.9 to 3.4 degrees Celsius before 2100.

Already, moves are afoot to ensure COP22, which begins on Monday in Marrakesh, places the topic of international cooperation and support for climate action front and center on the agenda.

"Even with the commitments made in Paris and encouraging action on the ground, we will not meet our aspiration of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees unless we move faster and at the scale that is needed," said World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim. "As the world heads into COP22 in Marrakesh, we must regain the sense of urgency we felt a year ago."

Back in December 2015, that urgency was brought sharply into focus by the solar industry, which used the Paris talks as a platform for launching both the Global Solar Council and the International Solar Alliance.

Since then, solar has enjoyed a strong 12 months, fueling hopes that renewable energy can come good – and soon – on its vast potential.

"Turning commitments into action must start now so that history will view this moment as a watershed for the global energy transition; the moment we rolled up our sleeves and decided to get the job done," said Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). "Renewable energy has made remarkable progress in the last decade, transforming from an almost attainable option to one that is economically and technically preferable.

"Renewable energy provides an immediate, viable and affordable solution to the challenge of climate change."

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