After the signing ceremony, implementation of Paris accord is key to tackling climate change
Actions taken by governments around the world must reflect the spirit as well as the letter of historic pact
Some 195 countries sealed the Paris climate accord last December and 175 turned up to sign it at the United Nations in New York last Friday. As signing ceremonies go it was less of a photo opportunity and more of a historic global affirmation of the need to halt global warming. It is the only plan the world has to tackle the potentially catastrophic threat of climate change which, by common consent bar the sceptics, cannot be otherwise avoided. Undivided support and cooperation is needed to make it work.
Before the accord takes legal effect, more than 55 countries representing at least 55 per cent of global emissions have to formally adopt it within their governments by either legislative or executive action – a process that could take until next year.
Instead of the contentious concept of binding targets for reducing emissions that led to an acrimonious outcome at the Copenhagen conference seven years ago, the Paris summit set a more flexible global goal of peaking greenhouse emissions as soon as possible to set the scene for bringing them down.
In that respect the accord does not meet the goal enshrined in climate science of limiting the increase in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial revolution levels. In fact, some experts say the deal could keep the average temperature increase no lower than just below 3 degrees.
At the same time , however, the Paris accord set a new ultimate objective, which is to limit global warming to well below the previous target of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. States are expected to update their plans and report progress every five years. Climate change believers say the momentum of the debate has shifted in favour of investment in clean, renewable energy. Political leaders should therefore be assured that their economies will continue to grow.
But much still depends on implementation of the accord reflecting the spirit as well as the letter of it. Wealthy and more advanced developing nations must continue providing support for poorer nations to cope with climate change.