Paris AgreementThe United States and China, the two biggest global carbon-emitting countries, have ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement. On Sep. 3, 2016 both U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping submitted their plans to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The ratification was announced in advance of the Group of 20 (G20) meeting being held in Hangzhou, China.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris was signed and adopted by 195 parties in December 2015. It asks the nations “to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future.” This agreement has come to be known as the Paris Agreement.

The UNFCCC in December 2015 saw a global compact to slash greenhouse gases and keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius. However, with the U.N.’s weather agency reporting that 2016 is on course to be the warmest year on record since records have been kept; it is already being questioned whether this goal can be reached. With the U.S. and China ratifying their agreements, and the U.N. Climate week in late September, a surge of ratifications is hoped for and expected.

U.N. Chief Ban said in a ceremony for the two countries: “With China and the United States making this historic step, we now have 26 countries who have ratified and 39% of global emissions accounted for…” It is hoped that with these two countries leading the way, more countries will follow suit. For the agreement to take effect, 29 more countries, which represent 16% of worldwide emissions, need to ratify their agreements. Once 55 countries that account for 55% of the greenhouse gases emitted have signed ratifications and filed them with the U.N., the agreement will go into force within 30 days.

The four countries with the highest emissions are China with 20.09%, the U.S. with 17.9%, Russia with 7.5% and India with 4.1%. The signing of the agreement was convened by U.N. Chief Ban in New York in April 2016. Country representatives signed the agreement before ratification. Once a country has signed the Paris Agreement, “it is obliged to refrain from acts that would defeat its object and purpose. The next step, ratification, signifies a country’s intent to be legally bound to the terms of the treaty at the international level.”

Before China and the U.S. ratified the Paris Agreement, only 24 other countries had done so and their emission impact on the globe represented only one percent. Now that these two large countries and large carbon emitters have ratified their agreements with the U.N., there is a bigger likelihood that the Paris Agreement will be set into place before the end of the year which is when it was expected. The agreement may even be enacted before November’s U.N. Climate Summit in Marrakesh.

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

Climate Refugees Intensify Global Warming Debate
People on different sides of the global warming debate now must consider a new element to the discussion as countries around the world try to address the question of how to treat “climate refugees.”

Guidelines for the treatment of internally displaced people as a result of war, violence, or natural disasters have existed for over 50 years. However, the question of how to treat displaced people who have been displaced within their home countries because of disasters brought on by climate change has yet to be answered.

Walter Kaelin, the former representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, frames the problem by saying, “There are unclear mandates for [aid] agencies to respond to cross-border displacement since no NGO or agency has responsibility for overseeing people displaced by natural disasters.” The legal questions regarding how to treat or assist people across international borders as a result of natural disasters have not yet been resolved. Some countries and organizations have shied away from addressing the issue of climate refugees because it could involve a lengthy formal process of international negotiations. The result is that climate refugees who apply for asylum after natural disasters can be rejected by possible host countries and have few if any, fall-back options.

At the 2010 Cancun conference on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the question of how to treat climate refugees was raised when the term “climate change-induced displacement” was mentioned for the first time in such a setting. However, the group refused to propose guidelines for the treatment of those displaced. At a recent conference in the Pacific Rim, the matter received considerable attention, in part because people from the so-called “drowning islands” (Pacific nations that are succumbing to rising sea levels) face the prospect of becoming climate refugees themselves as a result of disasters caused by global warming. Various U.N. agencies are studying the matter more closely in the hope of finding workable and livable solutions for those affected.

– Délice Williams

Source: IR in News,Climate Refugees
Photo: Space.City