The Paris Agreement on climate change took a significant step forward this morning as 31 countries formally joined it at a special event during the UN General Assembly in New York. Sixty countries representing almost 48 percent of global emissions have now joined the Agreement, crossing one of the two thresholds needed to trigger its entry into force. The Agreement takes effect once 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions join.
This morning gave us every reason to believe that this final threshold will be crossed this year, as the following countries also used the event to commit to formally join by the end of the year: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Kazakhstan, New Zealand and South Korea. Also, in its video statement, the European Commission noted its readiness to have the EU join by the end of this year, and encouraged its member states to speed up their process accordingly. Countries formally join the Agreement by signing it, getting it approved domestically, and then submitting their “instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval” to the UN.
Countries that Have Joined the Paris Agreement
Date of Joining
Latin American and Caribbean
Western Europe and North America
On April 22nd
Maldives, Marshall Island, Palau,
Cook Island, Samoa, Palestine
Belize, Barbados, Grenada,
St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia
April 23rd and September 20th
St Vincent & the Grenadines
Papua New Guinea,
United Arab Emirates
Antigua and Barbuda,
Some members of the EU, like Germany, France, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland committed to ratify by the end of the year, while the UK announced yesterday that it has started its ratification process. If the eight countries that committed to join by the end of this year actually do so, we will reach 54.98 percent of global emissions. With the EU’s total emissions counted, the amount would be 66.97 percent of emissions.
This is all great news for global action on climate change and demonstrates the broad, global support for the transformational goals of the Paris Agreement. But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon went even further, and used his platform to urge leaders to reach higher and advance other international actions on climate change. He called for leaders to use an upcoming meeting in Kigali, Rwanda to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), potent greenhouse gases used widely as refrigerants. He also urged leaders to support a global deal to limit rapidly growing emissions from the aviation sector at the International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly (ICAO) later this month.
Reaching these outcomes will buttress the action that countries are already taking to achieve their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the domestic climate plans they committed to at COP21 in Paris. Together, all of this momentum increases the confidence with which leaders in all sectors can plan for a zero-carbon and climate-resilient future.
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said to those assembled today, we will continue to write this new ending to the climate story. For those of us who were standing in the UN’s chamber this morning, the sense of momentum, cooperation and inclusiveness that characterized the Paris Agreement’s conception was palpable.