World Gathers to Sign Historic Climate Treaty

UNITED NATIONS–Today some 160 countries from around the world are gathered here at the signing ceremony for the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The record number of signatories reflects the global urgency of the crisis and follows a a number small island states–Fiji, RMI, Palau and Maldives–that were the first to complete their domestic ratification processes at home.

“We have three responsibilities post Paris: Sign, ratify, and implement,” said Thoriq Ibrahim, Environment and Energy Minister for the Maldives and Chair of AOSIS.

Still, as historic as the occasion is, scientists warn that the pledges on the table are insufficient to keep warming below 2 degrees C, to say nothing of the vastly more cautious 1.5 degrees called for and agreed as a goal in Paris.

The signing ceremony formalizes the agreement member countries reach as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, which committed parties to take national actions in their countries to reduce emissions by 2020.

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that both countries would take part in the signing ceremony, which corresponds with Earth Day. Their participation is significant, as there economies account some 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement goes into force once 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions officially sign, raising the possibility it will go into force ahead of schedule, possibly this year.

“It’s no longer a question to me whether we can solve this problem. We can. What remains to be seen is if we can do it fast enough, big enough, and in every corner of the world,” said Ibrahim. “Never forget that this is not just about small islands. Sooner or later climate change is coming to your shores too. But when you save islands, you save the world.”