Oct. 5, 2016 – Nearly 200 nations made history in Paris last December, when they came together around the most ambitious, inclusive climate agreement ever negotiated. I was honored to represent the United States in those negotiations and to be in the conference hall as the text was gaveled in. Immediately following the adoption of the Paris Agreement, President Obama and I set out on a global push, urging our counterparts around the world to help ensure the swift implementation and early entry into force of the Agreement. On Earth Day of this year, I joined representatives from a record-breaking number of parties to sign the Agreement, signaling our nations’ intent to formally join it. Today, less than six months later, enough countries – representing enough of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – have submitted their instruments to formally join. The Paris Agreement will enter into force in 30 days.
For many years, scientists have been warning us that climate change is real, it is happening now, and, barring global action to change the course our planet is on, it will have devastating impacts in nearly every corner of the world. As someone who has spent the better part of my professional life focused on fighting climate change, I have seen the global community begin to heed that warning time and again, only to fall far short of the kind of worldwide action that will make a difference.
Today it is crystal clear that we have finally woken up. We have learned from the false starts of the past, and we are now – finally – on the path to protecting the future for our children, our grandchildren and generations to come.
The rapid entry into force timeline underscores the widespread recognition of the urgency at hand. It is a testament to the continued determination of states large and small, rich and poor, to act on the moral, social, and economic imperative to address the dangerous impacts of climate change. Together, the world’s largest emitters have worked to overcome the divides that have led to the demise of past attempts, and are instead leading the way together. The reason we were able to pass the required threshold so early is that many of the largest emitters in the world – including the United States, China, India, the EU and a number of its member states – recognized the need to continue the momentum from Paris and joined swiftly to bring this Agreement into force as quickly as possible.
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Our shared commitment will amplify the powerful signal the Paris Agreement sent to world markets that we are moving toward a clean economy, both in the United States and around the globe, with unprecedented resolve. Markets and business thrive on certainty. The certainty that the deal is entering into force gives them added confidence that the transition toward a low-carbon future is not only happening – but accelerating – driving a virtuous cycle of greater innovation and investment.
But the hard work is still far from over, and we cannot for a moment rest on our laurels. Much is left to do, but if we keep our collective focus on steady progress, this month could shape up to be one of the most consequential in history for climate action. In addition to the Paris Agreement reaching the threshold to enter into force, this week the International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly is working to adopt the first ever industry-wide market based measure to set international aviation on a path toward sustainable, carbon-neutral growth. And in less than a week, the Parties to the Montreal Protocol will meet with the goal of adopting an amendment to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, which could avoid up to a half a degree of warming by the end of the century. Achieving successful and ambitious outcomes on these two vital negotiations would help the world reach the goals we outlined in the Paris Agreement and, in doing so, prevent the worst impacts of climate change.