Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

As Climate Agreement Enters into Force, Focus Turns to Making It Work

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

As Climate Agreement Enters into Force, Focus Turns to Making It Work

Article excerpt

A year ago, the global community was gearing up for perhaps its final round of intense negotiations to hammer out the first international pact since 1992 to protect the planet, "our common home," as Pope Francis describes it. Now with an in-force Paris Agreement in hand, that same global community arrives in Morocco in November with eyes toward reaching the lofty climate goals it put on paper.

The Paris Agreement officially enters into force Nov. 4, days before the start of COP22, the latest round of United Nations climate talks, and a month after the European Union's vote to ratify the agreement pushed the deal across the legal threshold. The landmark agreement required ratification by at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

Its "entry into force" triggers the launch of a governing body, and locks each country's climate plan, which can be strengthened but not weakened, and obliges the countries, though absent enforcement measures, to work toward the agreement's temperature goals.

The deal holds all nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions toward keeping average global temperature rise "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and as low as 1.5 degrees. As it currently stands, the national pledges on which the agreement was sealed would only limit temperature rise roughly 3 degrees C; the agreement commits countries to ratchet up pledges every five years, beginning in 2020.

Boosting the agreement

Seventy-seven countries accounting for nearly 60 percent of emissions have ratified the agreement as of Oct. 12.

That includes both the U.S. and China: The world's two leading economies, together representing 38 percent of global emissions, jointly announced ratification on Sept. 3. Weeks later, Brazil and India--two burgeoning economies viewed as critical to the deal--entered their ratification papers, as did Canada.

Australia, Russia, the United Kingdom, much of Africa and nearly all the Middle East have yet to ratify the agreement signed by 195 nations last December.

"Above all, entry into force bodes well for the urgent, accelerated implementation of climate action that is now needed to realize a better, more secure world and to support also the realization of the [U.N.] Sustainable Development Goals," Patricia Espinosa, newly named executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in a statement.

"Today, the world meets the moment," U.S. President Barack Obama said in a speech Oct. 5 from the White House Rose Garden. "History may well judge it as a turning point for our planet."

Faith communities joined in celebrating ratification.

The Catholic Climate Covenant said it was "greatly encouraged by the recent actions of our global leaders to address climate change."

Pointing to the pope's environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," the organization called for "courageous leadership--especially from wealthy nations--within the context of a strong international framework if we are to address the global ecological crisis."

The pace at which the Paris Agreement moved--from adoption in December, to signing by a record 175 countries on the first day to do so, Earth Day, in April, to ratification six months later--was unprecedented for recent international agreements, Espinosa said. For instance, the formation of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which emerged from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, didn't enter into force until 1994.

The agreement's swiftness "correlated with the urgency of the crisis," said Tomas Insua, global coordinator of the Global Catholic Climate Movement. While the deal still has many flaws, he said it serves as a "clear signal" that world leaders have the climate high on their agenda.

Another force that may have aided the urgency blew from the U. …

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