COP21

Climate agreement takes effect but doubts over implementation remain

Tim Altegör, 1 Nov 16
The climate deal struck in Paris in late 2015 will officially come into force on 4 November, having been ratified by 55 states responsible for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. With the formal entry into force of the Paris Agreement, attention is shifting towards implementation, which remains an uncertain prospect.

The first criterion was met some time ago: as of 10 October, 75 of the treaty’s 191 signatories had joined the agreement, according to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The emissions threshold was reached with the ratification of the accord by the EU on 5 October. 30 days later, the agreement automatically enters into force – just in time for the forthcoming UN Climate Change Conference in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh from 7 to 18 November. Other countries to have ratified the agreement include the US, China, India, Mexico and Brazil. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, spoke of a “truly historic moment for people everywhere” and highlighted the speed with which the agreement progressed from adoption to official entry into force. Its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, had to wait 8 years until the criteria were met – mainly due to the refusal of the US Congress to ratify the agreement. With the formal entry into force of the Paris Agreement, attention is shifting towards implementation, which remains an uncertain prospect. In the EU, for example, just how the planned 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 will be allocated among member states has yet to be conclusively settled. Meanwhile, two researchers in the US have published a pa per in the journal Nature Climate Change concluding that the country is on course to miss the 2025 carbon reduction targets submitted in Paris by a margin of up to 24.4 percent. Furthermore, Germany’s environment ministry recently calculated that even with the measures comprised in the climate action plan launched in 2014, the Federal Government is by no means certain to achieve its reduction target of 40 percent by 2020, and if it does it will be by a very small margin. Nevertheless, the debate surrounding additional reduction potential is gaining momentum. For instance, in a resolution of 23 September, the Bundesrat, which represents Germany’s federal states, called for Europe-wide taxation of vehicles and fuels to be reviewed so that “by 2030 at the latest, only zero emission cars are approved.”

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