Paris Agreement to enter into force before COP22

On October 5, 2016, more than 55 Parties covering over 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have ratified the Paris climate deal, UNFCCC announced. The Paris deal crossed its second threshold and, according to the provisions set down in the agreement, it will enter into force in 30 days, i.e. November 4, 2016.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC said: “This is a truly historic moment for people everywhere. […] The speed at which countries have made the Paris’s Agreement’s entry into force possible is unprecedented in recent experience of international agreements and is a powerful confirmation of the importance nations attach to combating climate change and realizing the multitude of opportunities inherent in the Paris Agreement.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated: “Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation is essential to meet the climate challenge. […] Global momentum for the Paris Agreement to enter into force in 2016 has been remarkable. What once seemed unthinkable is now unstoppable.”

The thresholds were crossed on October 5, after the European Union and several of its member states (Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia) as well as Bolivia, Canada and Nepal deposited their instruments for ratification with the United Nations. New Zealand also has ratified the agreement the day before.

Therefore, as of now, there are 74 Parties accounting for nearly 59 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions that have joined the agreement, according to UNFCCC. Among these Parties are big and small countries as well as rich and vulnerable countries such as the US and China, Brazil, India, small island states like the Marshall Islands, least developed countries like Bangladesh and even the major oil producer United Arab Emirates.

After its fast-track ratification procedure, the European Union submitted its documents of approval to the United Nations earlier than expected. An official ceremony will take place on Friday. Thus, Reuters concludes that the EU feared other nations ratifying and trigger entry into force of the agreement without the union.

The entry into force has several important implications. First of all, during the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) in Marrakesh, Morocco, from November 7-18, the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA) will take place. This will lead to some complications as the authority, oversight and direction on all matters relating to the Agreement will shift to the CMA, according to a UNFCCC document.

So far, special bodies – such as the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) – were tasked to elaborate on the many details that still need to be clarified for the Paris Agreement to become effective. Therefore, the CMA might be immediately suspended in Marrakesh until COP23 next year, to allow the APA continuing its work.

Moreover, the entry into force will mean that the so far “intended” nationally determined contributions (INDCs) – the national climate action plans – will turn into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for the countries that have joined the agreement. These contributions can always be revised, but only with a higher ambition and can not be weakened.


(Image: Laurence Tubiana, Christiana Figueres and Laurent Fabius welcoming the adoption of the agreement, December 12th, 2015, Paris. Photo credit: UNclimatechange/Flickr)