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"Climate Week" brings world nations together on climate accords

Posted by Barbara Gottlieb on September 19, 2016
Photo by: UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto

Countries from around the world are now gathering in New York for "Climate Week" with the objective of advancing the climate accords developed in Paris last December. The accords call on signatory countries to reduce their carbon emissions, and nearly 200 countries have signed on.

Now, a critical mass of countries needs to take action for the accords to go into effect. The threshold is two 55's: 55 countries, representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, need to formally approve the agreement.

At the Paris climate conference, widely known as COP21, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate agreement. It put the world on track to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with an aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

The United States and China announced their support a few weeks ago. They boosted the ranks of supporting countries to 27, representing nearly 40 percent of the world's emissions. Experts think that more than 55 countries may ratify by the end of Climate Week, although their cumulative emissions may fall short of the 55 percent emissions threshold.

However, the accords remain open for signature until late-April 2017, and several significant emitters including Japan and Canada are expected to sign on by the end of this year.

While current commitments for greenhouse gas reductions are actually not sufficient to stay well below a 2°C temperature increase, the Paris accords incorporate an "ambition cycle" -- a set of goals, timeframes and check-ins to ensure that participating countries regularly strengthen their commitments.

President Obama took a strong leadership position by being an early signer for the United States. Here's to other countries joining in.

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