Good news, Earthlings!
On March 30, Papa New Guinea became the first country to submit its finalized national climate action plan (called a Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC) in accordance with the country’s participation in the COP21 Conference in Paris this past December and its involvement in the climate change agreement that was adopted at the end of the conference, stating that the countries involved would COMMIT TO MOVING FROM THE USE OF FOSSIL FUELS TO MORE RENEWABLE SOURCES OF ENERGY. The Paris Agreement is that agreement. Papua New Guinea just made the first definitive step in the fight against climate change, because before this move, the nations at COP21 all submitted an “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)–the operative word there obviously being, “intended.” 161 nations at COP21 submitted an INDC to make up the Paris Agreement, which covered 98 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. But Papa New Guinea is the first nation to set down in what it intends to do about its carbon footprint for good. It has committed to using 100% Renewable energy by 2030.
The Paris Agreement between the 161 COP21 nations provides a legal framework for the climate plans submitted. It’s supposed to oversee and provide accountability, ensuring that each nation’s INDC eventually becomes an NDC. Once a country develops an NDC, it submits it to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as NDC’s. Which is what Papua New Guinea has done. Again, the first country to do so–however, the Paris Agreement will not officially take effect until after at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions sign and ratify the Paris Agreement, which means following Papua New Guinea’s example and submitting an NDC.
This last part might be a bit confusing, because though 161 countries ADOPTED the Paris Agreement, it does not mean it was ratified. ADOPTION is the formal act that establishes the form and content of an agreement. In addition to adopting the Paris Agreement, the countries made a number of key decisions about what’s necessary for the Agreement to actually take effect. They also agreed on how an INDC becomes an NDC.
Now what needs to happen: Countries who adopted the Paris Agreement now have to JOIN the Paris Agreement and become PARTIES to it, which is to SIGN and indicate their CONSENT to be BOUND by it, which is to submit an NDC–once at least 55 PARTIES (countries) representing 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions have done this, the Agreement will come into effect and be LEGALLY BINDING. After this occurs the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement will be held. This will be a time where more detailed rules and procedures to make the Agreement effective will be decided on. The NDC is an important part of the process because it is a tool to implement the Agreement’s idea of ramping up effort to combat climate change every 5 years and to ensure the Agreement’s ULTIMATE GOAL OF LIMITING GLOBAL TEMPERATURE RISE TO UNDER 2 DEGREES CELSIUS. NDCs are also useful for communicating information on adaptation–outlining goals, activities, and needs for countries to deal with consequences of a warming planet.
There is a timeline to this process. On April 22, 2016, an event will be held in New York for heads of state of the COP21 countries–a high-level signing ceremony where the Paris Agreement will be opened for signing by heads of state from then until April 21, 2017. Many are expected to sign on that day, but that isn’t the same as becoming a PARTY to the Agreement. SIGNING indicates a commitment to refrain from acts that would defeat the purpose of the Agreement: to become a PARTY, a country must also CONSENT to JOIN and be BOUND by its Parties.
To indicate consent to be bound and become Parties to the Agreement after the initial SIGNING of the Agreement, most countries must create any domestic legislation necessary to implement the Agreement–this process is different for different countries–(Australia requires formal notification and introduction of the Agreement in Parliament, Mexico requires consent of the Senate, and America joints many international agreements as “executive agreements” based on Presidential Authority)–when a country completes the domestic processes necessary, it will come back and turn in an “instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval”– a formal document showing that all necessary processes are finished and the country can join the Agreement. This can be done as soon as a country SIGNS the Agreement, or much later. After April 21, 2017 the Agreement will be open for what is called “accession”–which is the term for when a country becomes a Party to an international agreement that other countries have already signed–basically a term separating the new countries from the original Parties of the agreement.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN: According to data from (wri.org), the 55 percent threshold can’t be achieved without the acceptance of one of the top 4 emitters: China, USA, European Union, or Russia. The world will be looking to at least one to making the leap to a better tomorrow. And if what is coming out about this issue is correct, it looks as though the United States, China, AND India will all be looking to sign the Agreement come April 22. See the story here: https://cleantechnica.com/2016/04/04/us-china-india-will-sign-paris-agreement-april-22/
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE PARIS AGREEMENT AND COP21 CONFERENCE, VISIT THESE LINKS BELOW