Will the Paris agreement be ratified by end of 2016?

If there is one question that climate treaty watchers are speculating on the world over, it is this: Will the Paris agreement be ratified by end of 2016? The treaty that was negotiated at the UN summit in Paris last year can enter into effect only 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of the global emissions ratify the treaty. That means, only if the requisite countries ratify the treaty by end of November, around the 22nd Conference of Parties (CoP) summit in Morocco, will the Paris pact be ready to enter into force by the end of this year, not otherwise. Presently, 27 countries accounting for 39.08 per cent of global emissions have ratified the climate pact, according to the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change, the nodal UN agency monitoring the implementation of the treaty.

According to a UNFCCC report, even if all the pledges made by 197 countries that are signatory to the Paris pact were fulfilled, it would be insufficient to keep global temperature rise within the 2 degree Celsius threshold. File photo

With the two top global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitters – U.S. and China – ratifying the treaty ahead of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, all eyes are now fixed on the other top global emitters – EU, India, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia and Mexico – to see when they will be following suit. According to an earlier World Resources Institute calculation, if along with U.S.and China, all the other mentioned top emitters take action, then over 70 per cent of the global GHG emissions will be covered.

Here is an up-to-date list of countries that have ratified the Paris climate treaty as of now:

Country Signed Ratified
Bahamas 22 Apr 2016 22 Aug 2016
Barbados 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Belize 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Cameroon 22 Apr 2016 29 Jul 2016
China 22 Apr 2016 3 Sep 2016
Cook Islands 24 Jun 2016 1 Sep 2016
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 22 Apr 2016 1 Aug 2016
Fiji 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Grenada 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Guyana 22 Apr 2016 20 May 2016
Lao People’s Democratic Republic 22 Apr 2016 7 Sep 2016
Maldives 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Marshall Islands 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Mauritius 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Nauru 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Norway 22 Apr 2016 20 Jun 2016
Palau 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Peru 22 Apr 2016 25 Jul 2016
Samoa 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Seychelles 25 Apr 2016 29 Apr 2016
Somalia 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
St. Kitts and Nevis 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
St. Lucia 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 22 Apr 2016 29 Jun 2016
State of Palestine 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
Tuvalu 22 Apr 2016 22 Apr 2016
United States of America 22 Apr 2016 3 Sep 2016 A
The current stress on ratification of the Paris treaty is partly due to the outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama’s diplomatic ambition to leave behind a legacy of positive climate action, something that he had indicated in an exclusive interview to The New York Times on Thursday. Except U.S., China, and perhaps Norway and Belgium, most of the other countries that have ratified the Paris treaty till now are countries with low GHG emissions. These small nations stand a high risk of facing the adverse consequences of the climate catastrophe. Island countries such as Maldives, Samoa, Tuvalu, St. Lucia, Seychelles, acted promptly to ratify the treaty because they are threatened by sea-level rise

However, the question remains whether other top emitters who are contributing to the problem of climate change will act as decisively. India, which ranks number four globally in terms of absolute emissions, but has a low per capita GHG emission, has clarified that it will be unable to ratify the Paris accord this year due to domestic procedures that have to be addressed.

Beyond ratification

Despite all the current hype over the ratification of the Paris pact, the truth is that even if all the major GHG emitters ratified the treaty, it will not count towards plugging global temperature rise above the 2 degree Celsius warming threshold. In April, ahead of a signing ceremony for the Paris agreement at the UN headquarters in New York, a UNFCCC report had observed that even if all the pledges made by 197 countries that are signatory to the Paris pact were fulfilled, it would be insufficient to meet the conservative goal of keeping global temperature rise within the 2 degree Celsius threshold. The ideal, desired goal of keeping temperature rise within the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold is far away still.

The national climate action plans, referred to as INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) in UNFCCC lingo, are not enough to meet the goals of the Paris accord. That is why climate treaty watchers must keenly observe the next round of negotiations at the upcoming COP22 UN summit in Morocco in November, which will focus on implementation of the Paris agreement.

Nick Nuttall, the spokesperson for the UNFCCC, based in Bonn, Germany told The Hindu that ratification of the treaty was only the first step, and there has to be a improving of ambition for climate action over time and this will be a long term process. “What is on the table, in the form of the climate action plans are an improvement on what we had before Paris, but they are insufficient. That is why there has to be a regular stock take of the emissions scenario and ramping up of action over time. The ratification process is just a beginning.”