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UK to Ratify Paris Agreement

Theresa May has announced that the UK will ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of 2016 and possibly within a matter of weeks. This follows ratification this month by the world’s highest emitting countries, China and the US, which are jointly responsible for 38% of global emissions.

In order for the Paris Agreement to enter into force, there is a requirement that it is signed by 55 countries, representing 55% of emissions. A tranche of 30 countries signed the agreement last week while attending the UN General Assembly in New York, taking the current status to 60 countries, representing 47.76% of global emissions, having signed. The ongoing status can be followed here.

There had been speculation that because the UK had originally committed to an emissions reduction target as part of a wider EU commitment, the Brexit vote would mean that the target had to be renegotiated. However, the recent announcement by the Prime Minister demonstrates that the government plans to press ahead regardless. The UK government is still due to publish a carbon reduction plan that will meet its own domestic targets, set in the fifth carbon budget. The new carbon plan was originally planned for the autumn but Environment Secretary Nick Hurd has said it could well be delayed until 2017.

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US and China Ratify Paris Climate Agreement

Ahead of the G20 meeting held in China last week, the US and China announced joint ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement. This ratification is seen as a turning point for global climate action because, together, these two nations emit 38% of global emissions. It was particularly important that US ratification took place before the end of President Obama’s term in office because otherwise US involvement, and indeed the future of the agreement, could have floundered

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding agreement that was reached between 195 countries in December 2015 to keep global warming “well below 2°C” and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrialised levels”. Each nation, or group of nations, set a plan to cut emissions together with an outline of how this would be achieved. It was agreed that the global peaking of emissions will be achieved as soon as possible, although this will take longer for developing nations.

Before the Paris Agreement can enter into force, it requires ratification from 55 countries to cover 55% of global emissions. To date, it has been ratified by 27 countries making up 39% of emissions. Some countries, such as India, have said they are not yet ready to sign the agreement.

In order to meet its climate change target, China will need to reduce its emissions per unit of GDP by 60 to 65% by 2030, against 2005 levels. It has also pledged that 20% of China’s energy will be from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. The BP Statistical Review, published in June this year, showed that China’s energy intensity has recently declined but that it remains the highest energy consumer.

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