For the first time in history, governments around the world have agreed to legally binding limits on global temperature rises as the Paris Agreement [text, PDF] on climate change became effective [Guardian report] on Friday. All governments that have ratified the accord are now legally obligated to cap global warming levels at 2C above pre-industrial levels—regarded as a limit of safety by scientists. But environmentalists and other groups have said the agreement may not be enough. According to Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth [advocacy website]: “The Paris agreement is a major step in the right direction, but it falls a long way short of the giant leap needed to tackle climate change. Far tougher action is needed to rapidly slash emissions.” Greenpeace [advocacy website] also agreed that while the agreement is a major step forward, it needs stronger force. Andrew Norton, the director of the International Institute for Environment and Development [official website], further pointed out that governments would need to take measures to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable countries get adequate financing to tackle climate change problems. [IIED report] As of right now, 97 of the 197 countries of the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change [official website], including the US, India, China and the EU nations have ratified, and are thereby legally bound by, the agreement. Governments are expected to meet in Morocco next week under the auspices of the UN to discuss implementation strategies for the agreement. UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa and Morocco Minister of Foreign Affairs Salaheddine Mezouar issued a joint statement: “Humanity will look back on 4 November 2016 as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster and set off with determination towards a sustainable future”
According to many experts, climate change [JURIST backgrounder] as a result of global greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most pressing and controversial environmental issues facing the international community today. The Paris Agreement is the world’s first comprehensive pact seeking to reduce carbon emissions and halt climate change. The threshold of 55 parties, making up more than 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, triggering the entry into force of the agreement [official website] was reached exactly one month ago. [JURIST report]. In September US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping formally committed [JURIST report] their nations to the Paris Agreement. These two nations alone are responsible for roughly 40 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions. In May government signatories to the Paris Agreement discussed safeguards [JURIST report] against potential human rights violations which could arise in relation to the Agreement.