NEW YORK – Thirty-one countries formally joined the Paris Agreement on climate change on Wednesday, surpassing a major hurdle toward putting the landmark pact into force.
The agreement cannot go into effect until 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions have ratified or accepted it through their own domestic procedures.
“I am happy to declare that we have officially crossed one of the two thresholds required to bring the Paris Agreement into force,” Ban said at the ceremony referring to the total of 60 countries that have so far done so.
Before the U.N. ceremony, 29 countries had ratified it.
But the second threshold remains to be fulfilled with hopes it can be realized before the end of the year.
Taken together with the newest additions, the parties now represent 47.5 percent of the global emissions.
“We need 7.5 percent more,” Ban declared. “I am confident that, by the time I leave office, the Paris Agreement will have entered into force.”
As a major climate change advocate, the U.N. chief pledged to make fighting climate change a top priority when he took office nearly 10 years ago. His term ends on Dec 31.
In his push for tangible results, major progress was made when a record 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement on Earth Day, April 22, at the United Nations headquarters.
At Wednesday’s event there was high-level representation from presidents and prime ministers to foreign ministers from Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Pacific island states, which are most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
Bangladesh, Mongolia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand were among those leaders who represented Asia.
On Tuesday, the Japanese government decided to submit a bill to ratify the agreement at an extraordinary Diet session that begins next Monday. Japan is the world’s sixth-largest emitter.
In his closing remarks, Ban announced that he had also received pledges from 14 other countries and the European Union to fulfill their promises by the year’s end.
Included in that group are countries, such as Australia, Cambodia, New Zealand, Germany, Cote d’Ivoire and France.
If those nations come through they collectively represent more than 12 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, which means the pact would be put into force.
“It (the ratification of the agreement) will mark a new era of global cooperation in building a safer, more resilient and prosperous world,” Ban said. “And it will catalyze action on many levels.”