Paris Agreement Ratification Moves to Global Stage

The high level segment of the 71st United Nations General Assembly opens today against the backdrop of compelling international challenges: Escalating conflicts, refugees, resource and territorial disputes, and an unfolding story about a potential terrorist attack in the host city will dominate the headlines.

These are obviously all important issues that deserve attention of world leaders and the news, but elsewhere on the agenda history is in the making.

As many as 20 additional countries will deposit their Paris Agreement instruments of ratification on Wednesday, bringing the total tantalizingly close to the 50 countries and 50 percent of global emissions required for the treaty to enter into force—well ahead of the anticipated schedule.

Already, 17 AOSIS members have completed the process and at least two more are expected to join their peers this week.

AOSIS has said all year that it would behoove the international community to bring the Paris Agreement into force as soon as possible and ideally make COP22 in Marrakesh the first meeting of parties to the agreement.

If past is prologue, even though the climate accord represents unprecedented global cooperation, there is a risk it will be overshadowed by events that may seem more urgent, but upon closer examination either stem from or would benefit from many of the same actions needed to manage climate change.

Research continues to demonstrate clear links between rising temperatures, conflict, and human migration. But just as importantly floods, droughts, famines, migration, conflict and other primary and secondary climate change impacts can be mutually reinforcing and lead to even more complex and challenging problems.

Not coincidentally, the solutions identified by the Paris Agreement and 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda are exactly the kind of policies that are capable of managing the suite of aforementioned challenges. New sources of energy, new opportunities, enhanced food and water security, humanitarian support, and so on.

We have the power to take on all these issues and more if we remember not to lose sight of the forest for the trees.