• Agreement will take effect when ratified by 55 nations
  • `We will have a Paris agreement in effect by 2018': Figueres

The global climate change agreement brokered in Paris in December by 195 nations will come into effect two years earlier than originally planned, the top United Nations climate diplomat predicted.

“You heard it here first: I think that we will have a Paris Agreement in effect by 2018,” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said during a question-and-answer session after delivering a lecture Monday at Imperial College London. 

The prediction suggests that countries may initiate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions earlier than expected, and increases the chances of meeting the pact’s ultimate goal of limiting the increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since industrialization began.

Negotiators agreed in 2011 to pursue a global climate deal that would take effect in 2020, when commitments under the current agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, expire.

“At some point the decision was made to remove that sentence,” Figueres said. That means the Paris deal will go into effect when it’s ratified by at least 55 nations representing at least 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

Signing Ceremony

Figueres said that at least 130 nations have pledged to sign the Paris Agreement at a ceremony at the United Nations in New York on April 22. That would eclipse the current record for the opening day of signing for a treaty of 119, held by the Law of the Sea, she said. Ten of those nations are also expected to ratify the deal at the same time.

Even so, she said the deal had come “10 years too late,” and that the world is now at “two minutes to midnight.”

For the world to get to “net zero” emissions in the second half of the century, “we would have to peak by 2020,” Figueres said, referring to the point at which annual emissions reach a maximum and begin to fall. The UN’s business-as-usual scenario “would have us peaking somewhere between 2025 and 2035.”

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