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NEW YORK – Thirty-one more countries formally joined the Paris climate agreement on Wednesday, doubling the number of those who had previously ratified the document, and bringing it well past one of the the thresholds needed for implementation. But in order for the agreement to go into effect, the countries need to account for at least 55 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
“What seemed at one time impossible is now inevitable,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I am confident by the time I leave office (on Dec. 31), the Paris agreement will have entered into force.”
RELATED RESOURCE: See a tracker of the Paris agreement ratification
Fifty-five countries, accounting for 55 percent of the world’s emissions, were needed to ratify the agreement. The 60 countries who have ratified it so far represent 48 percent of the world’s emissions. Once both thresholds are met, the agreement enters into force in 30 days.
Countries who sign on to the pact must agree to keep the Earth’s temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.
Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama — representing the top two emitting countries at a total of 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases — joined the agreement, hoping that other nations would follow suit.
In addition to China and the U.S., the more than 30 countries who ratified the agreement on Wednesday included Argentina, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Ukraine and Brazil.
The U.S. target is to reduce emissions by 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. It will be up to the next president to implement the Paris agreement.
At Wednesday’s ceremony, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said governments won’t achieve the needed changes, but rather the private sector and entrepreneurs who will come up with better battery storage and other ways to solve the huge problem.
Reporting in New York was supported in part by the U.N. Foundation’s Global Issues Press Fellowship program.
Larisa Epatko produced multimedia web features and broadcast reports with a focus on foreign affairs for the PBS NewsHour. She has reported in places such as Jordan, Pakistan, Iraq, Haiti, Sudan, Western Sahara, Guantanamo Bay, China, Vietnam, South Korea, Turkey, Germany and Ireland.
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