As World Convenes for Climate Week, Paris Agreement Is Nearly Ready for Action

By Eliza Northrop and Melisa Krnjaic

This week, as world leaders gather in New York for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the UN Secretary-General is holding a special event on September 21 to accelerate entry into force of the Paris Agreement.  Countries will have an opportunity to formally join the Agreement by depositing their instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval in a high-level session during UNGA. (Other countries not yet in a position to do so will have the opportunity to publically commit to join before the end of 2016.)

The speed and enthusiasm with which countries have signed and are now are joining the Agreement suggests the question is no longer whether the Paris Agreement will enter into force this year, but rather when. This early entry into force is unusual by international standards and will demonstrate the strong political support for the Agreement and climate action globally, as well as accelerate the pace to put in place the operational details of the Agreement. 

Once at least 55 Parties, representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the Secretary-General, the Paris Agreement will enter into force. Entry into force means the Agreement takes effect and becomes legally binding for those countries that have joined.

Where We Stand Today

Ukraine depositing its instrument of ratification today brings us to a total of 29 countries that have joined the Paris Agreement, representing 40.12 percent of global emissions; an additional 13 countries (representing 7.19 percent of emissions) look poised to do so, having completed their domestic approval processes. Combined, this already totals 42 countries, representing 47.31 percent of emissions.

Adding the additional 22 countries (representing 8.07 percent of emissions) that have publically committed to join early or this year would bring the Agreement across the threshold in 2016. The September 21 event will add significant momentum to secure this rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement.

Which Countries Are About to Join?

Brazil, Mexico, Uganda, Panama and Sri Lanka have most recently completed the necessary domestic approval processes to join the Paris Agreement. Along with Argentina, Ghana, Guinea, Iran, Mali, Papua New Guinea, United Arab Emirates and Vanuatu, they are expected to use the event on the 21st as the moment to deposit their relevant instruments and formally join the Agreement.

This would leave us 13 countries and 7.69 percent of emissions shy of the 55-55 threshold.

Which Countries Can Push Us Past the Finish Line?

Japan, India, Indonesia and South Korea have yet to publically commit to joining the Paris Agreement this year. As all are relatively large emitters, commitments from any of them would bring the total past the 55 percent emissions threshold.

WRI has recently analyzed the domestic processes that each of the top 100 emitters needs to take to join the Paris Agreement. These processes can be broadly placed into five categories and visualized on the new “Domestic Approval Map” in the Paris Agreement Tracker.

Let’s take a look at what the domestic approval processes are for these countries.

In Japan, the Cabinet is responsible for concluding agreements based on the approval of the Diet, which is expected to meet in mid-September to consider ratification of the Paris Agreement. Following approval, the Emperor is responsible for attesting the instruments of ratification.

While the federal parliament of India has exclusive power to make laws regulating entry into and implementation of international treaties, to date no law has been made to regulate the manner in which the Indian government signs or ratifies international treaties; that responsibility subsequently falls to the federal government.

Both Indonesia and South Korea’s processes for joining international agreements depend on the nature of the agreement, but could require approval from their respective national parliaments before they are able to join the Paris Agreement. If either country determines the Paris Agreement is not required to go to Parliament, it becomes a decision of the executive (by way of Presidential Decree in Indonesia and a decision of the State Council in South Korea).

For more information, see WRI’s “Domestic Approval Map” under the display menu in the Paris Agreement Tracker.

Momentum Matters

Countries that have taken the initiative to swiftly complete their domestic ratification processes have given unprecedented momentum to entry into force of the Paris Agreement. If the 55-55 threshold is reached by October 7, 2016 (one month before COP22 begins), then the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (referred to as “CMA1”) will take place in conjunction with COP22 in Morocco this November, kick-starting a number of key processes under the Paris Agreement.

September 21st will undoubtedly be a key moment for accelerating entry into force of the Paris Agreement. While it is only a matter of time before the Paris Agreement enters into force, it’s time to double down on the momentum we already have. The sooner this climate deal is in place, the sooner countries, subnational governments, businesses, and civil society can start working together to achieve the ambitious, urgently necessary steps on carbon reductions and climate resilience the Agreement requires.