November 1, 2016

Paris Agreement Enters into Force This Week, What to Expect at November Climate Talks

WASHINGTON (November 1, 2016)—Nearly every nation banded together less than a year ago to adopt the Paris Agreement, a plan aimed at limiting global climate change. Since then, momentum for tackling global warming emissions has continued to build among nations. The Paris Agreement will enter into force on November 4, earlier than most had predicted and just in advance of the United Nation’s annual climate change summit, which takes place in Marrakech, Morocco from November 7 to 18 this year and will be attended by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). 

“This milestone is certainly cause for celebration, perhaps with a glass or two of French Champagne, but nations still have a lot of hard work ahead of them,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at UCS who has been involved in international climate negotiations since they began in 1990. “In Marrakech, countries will be tasked with building on the Paris Agreement’s strong foundation to ensure it can be properly implemented and strengthened.” 

The Paris Agreement’s temperature limitation goal, net zero emissions objective and process to steadily increase the ambition of national emissions reduction commitments sent a strong signal to the fossil fuel industry that their efforts to block action on climate change after decades of deception are no longer working. However, maintaining the momentum on climate action depends on progress being made on multiple fronts at this year’s climate change summit in Marrakech, including the following:

  • Agreement on a process and timeframe for finalizing the Paris Agreement implementation rules on issues such as transparency and reporting, use of market mechanisms to achieve national commitments, land use sector emissions accounting, and creation of a compliance structure.
  • Concrete steps to ramp up public and private sector financial support to aid developing countries with adaptation and mitigation actions, implementing their national plans, and accelerating their transition to climate-friendly technologies.
  • Determine how the “facilitative dialogue”—a mandated review slated for COP24 in late 2018 to determine if national climate action plans are collectively adequate for meeting the bold temperature limits established in Paris—should be structured.  

“The Marrakech climate summit needs to catalyze action on three fronts simultaneously,” said Meyer. “Countries need to ramp up near-term actions to reduce their emissions and increase their resilience to climate impacts, intensify efforts to complete the Paris Agreement rule book, and lay the groundwork for stronger national commitments to be put forward by the end of this decade. The unprecedented speed with which countries acted to bring the Paris Agreement into force, as well as last month’s agreement on phasing down production and use of hydrofluorocarbons under the Montreal Protocol, gives me hope that Marrakech can and will make the progress needed on all three of these fronts.”

IPCC Report on Climate Change Coming, But Countries Experiencing Impacts Now

Communities across the globe are already experiencing the impacts of climate change in the form of droughts, wildfires, more intense hurricanes, climbing temperatures and rising seas. Science tells us these problems will only continue to worsen without more drastic action. Therefore, as called for in Paris, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will issue a special report in 2018 aimed at comparing what life would look like in a world where the global average temperature has increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius, as compared to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius, and laying out the actions needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s ambitious temperature limitation goals.  

“Work on the IPCC report has already begun, and it will provide an important piece of the scientific puzzle in helping us understand the consequences of not meeting the 1.5 degree Celsius limit,” said Adam Markham, deputy director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. “But that’s of little consolation to the communities that are already bearing the brunt of climate change impacts.” 

“Therefore, nations need to take actions in Marrakech laying out how countries in need of immediate adaptation and mitigation assistance can obtain the help they require,” added Markham. “Furthermore the mounting, ever-worsening climate change impacts should provide nations the impetus to ratchet up their ambition to reduce global warming emissions sooner rather than later.”

US Expected to Continue Its Leadership Role at Marrakech

So far, the US—in partnership with China, Canada, Mexico and other nations—has proven to be a strong leader in the U.N. process to decrease global warming emissions and in turn help limit some of the worst impacts of climate change. 

“The Paris Agreement will be entering into force in record time largely because of actions taken by the US and other nations that acted early to formally join the Paris Agreement,” said Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager at UCS. “When the US and China—two economic power houses and clean energy leaders—announced their intentions to join the Paris Agreement in advance of November’s climate summit, they led the way for other nations to act, and made global businesses and investors take notice. Similarly, the US has joined with Canada and Mexico to lay out an ambitious vision for coordinated North American climate and clean energy actions.” 

This leadership is anticipated to continue in Marrakech, with the US expected to release its long-term plan to dramatically lower global warming emissions by mid-century during the second week of negotiations. Nations were invited to submit these plans by 2020 in keeping with the long-term decarbonization goals laid out in the Paris Agreement.

“At Marrakech, we hope to see an ambitious and comprehensive plan from the US that lays out emission reduction opportunities across all sectors of our economy, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Cleetus. “Additionally, the plan should emphasize the need to protect and enhance the natural sinks—such as forests, grasslands and soils—that help absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it. The good news is that the costs of renewables are falling dramatically, which means the transition to a low-carbon economy is becoming increasingly affordable. In addition, it will bring a multitude of public health, economic and climate benefits.”

“This blueprint is crucial for our next president and Congress, who will need to develop and adopt the policies that can put the US on a path to achieving net zero emissions by mid-century,” added Cleetus. “Such policies should include a robust price on carbon, as well as stronger policies on clean energy, energy efficiency, and land use and forest management. By sharing its plan early, the US is setting an important example that will encourage other nations to follow suit.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.