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France, first G 20 nation to ratify the COP 21 Agreement

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There is a significant legal distinction between “signature” and “ratification”. The Paris Agreement should mark clear progress on this point compared to previous international conferences, with the declared will of major industrialized nations such as the United States and China to ratify the treaty before the end of 2016.


What are the differences between “signature” and “ratification”?

France has therefore just brought its final touch to the process of implementing the Paris Agreement, signed on December 12, 2015. Before that, the text of this agreement had to be examined and validated by Parliament: it was done. on May 17, 2016 in the National Assembly, then on June 8 in the Senate. The final signature of the President of the Republic still had to be affixed to the text. François Hollande thus closed the ratification process on June 15 at the Élysée Palace, in the presence of the Minister of the Environment and President of COP 21, Ms. Royal.

The distinction between signature and ratification is significant, even decisive in the application of international treaties. Indeed, the signing of an agreement is equivalent to a preliminary acceptance, but without binding pressure. It is in a way a reflection of the will of a state to get involved in a project, and to consider ratifying it, without guaranteeing it. The final ratification makes it possible to take the plunge and this time to become fully involved in the agreement previously signed, with a legal obligation.

The most striking example of nations signing but not ratifying an agreement is probably that of the United States, with the famous Kyoto protocol. Signed in 1997, this protocol was already aimed at massively reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Intended to come into effect in 2005, this protocol had been ratified by 182 countries out of the 192 signatories, the exceptions notably including the United States, yet one of the most polluting nations in the world. A finding that should not be repeated with the Paris Agreement, since the United States has announced their intention to ratify it this time before the end of 2016.


Ratification processes vary from country to country

A total of 175 parties have signed the Paris Agreement, comprising 174 countries and the European Union. All these nations have time to officially ratify the agreement, until spring 2017. The official signing ceremony, which only formally confirmed the agreement of December 2015 in Paris, took place on April 22 in New York. , as part of “Earth Day”. So far, only 17 countries have ratified the treaty. France is the first G 20 country to have done so.

This ratification process differs significantly from country to country. The majority of nations need parliamentary agreement, like France. However, some states can bypass this potentially risky step by employing a roundabout method. This is the case in the United States, where the United States Senate would represent a serious threat to the ratification of the treaty. President Obama thus intends to circumvent the problem by using an administrative act, which dispenses with the opinion of the Senate. For the specific case of the European Union, the procedure is original. The 28 member countries must ratify the Paris Agreement before the Union can do so, although its commitment is equivalent to only one nation.

Once ratification has been completed, the final step is for each country to formally deposit its legally binding proof of consent with the Secretary General of the United Nations. For the agreement to become effective, at least 55% of the countries representing 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions must pass the ratification stage (which almost inevitably includes China and the United States, representing at themselves more than a third of these emissions). When this total of signatory nations is gathered, the agreement will officially enter into force within the following month.

COP 21 and beyond

COP 21 represents an undeniable success, at least on the diplomatic level. It puts an end to a long series of international conferences which began in 1979 in Geneva, with more or less encouraging results. The Copenhagen conference in 2009, already announced at the time as the last chance for the planet, had resulted in a serious failure in the face of the extreme difficulty of imposing powerful efforts for sustainable development on the most industrialized nations.

The fundamental success of the COP 21 is to theoretically impose a legally binding pressure on the signatory states, going beyond the simple and insufficient initial signature. Theoretically, because there is in fact no provision for coercive devices, which would impose economic sanctions on recalcitrant states. However, it is a question of obliging transparency on the results obtained, a motivating way of bringing into play the reputation and the international image of the signatory nations.

The near future of the Paris Agreement now passes through the COP 22 in Marrakech, which will take place from November 7 to 18, 2016. It will be difficult to start translating the promises of the COP 21 into concrete facts. The famous objective of Limiting global warming to 1.5 ° has already attracted criticism from the start. The aim would be to limit warming to 1.5 ° more than the average temperature existing before the industrial era.

This would force a 70% to 95% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, an ambitious goal to say the least. In addition, one of the main debates at COP 22 should focus on water, one of the resources now considered to be among the most crucial in the 21 st century.

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