As it happened: World leaders sign climate pact in New York

News, commentary and analysis from UN ceremony as 175 countries sign the Paris Agreement on climate change

Gertrude Clement, a 16-year-old radio reporter from Tanzania, told delegates of the impact extreme weather is having on her country (Pic: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

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Updates from Megan Darby and Ed King in London – all times BST

Headlines:


1900 – What a day. A diplomatic triumph, but less clear what it means for the global climate. Not much in the near future is the safe guess.

China’s push to get countries to ratify by the G20 in September is significant, Alden Meyer from the US Union of Concerned Scientists has just told me. “It’s pretty clear the US and China will look to coordinate on this,” he said.

Read my full time match report here including reaction from Ban Ki-moon, Francois Hollande plus the Alliance of Small Island States.

I’ll leave you with what is undoubtedly the defining image of the day – US secretary of state John Kerry and his grand-daughter signing the Paris Agreement.


18:23  Will it ever end? Make it end. Ok this is unfair, it’s an historic day, as every leader and politician has reminded us so far. The UK and India are the latest to sign up – the UK team were so excited they filmed Lord Bourne wield his pen.


17:44 – The signatures are still going on. Next on the agenda is lunch, a panel event with UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and Segolene Royal, French president of the climate talks, and a closing ceremony.

I’m handing over control to Ed King, who will also report from a press conference with President Hollande, Figueres and Royal.


17:26 – US President Barack Obama is giving a press conference with UK PM David Cameron in London.

The main focus is the upcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU – President Obama says the UK is stronger in.

He cites the Paris climate deal as an example of the importance of collective action to solve global problems.

“Around the world our joint efforts have… forged climate agreement in Paris which will protect the planet for future generations.”


17:02 – Indian energy minister Piyush Goyal in New York is on characteristically bullish form. He tells reporters he sees a “trillion dollar investment opportunity” in the country by 2030, driven by plans to expand renewables.

Specialist investor desks will also be set up to allow potential funders from the US, UK, Australia and Japan to explore the potential of India’s energy sector.

Earlier this week, he said new solar power was cheaper to install than coal plants.


16:25 – Secretary Kerry signs the deal with his granddaughter in his arms. Awww.


16:15 – US climate envoy Jonathan Pershing has just taken questions from media. He said the “high ambition coalition” that helped deliver the Paris Agreement should now focus on UN shipping and aviation talks, as well as discussions on slashing potent warming gases known as HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.

“We think there is a role and we could work with colleagues. All agreements should be part of a wider vision to cut emissions,” he said. It’s an intriguing statement given as we reported yesterday, the US was among countries blocking plans to set a ship emissions target at the International Maritime Organization.

Pershing also revealed the US has allocated US$15m to help countries develop measuring, reporting and verifying systems for greenhouse gas emissions.

International transport emissions are not explicitly covered by the Paris climate deal (Flickr/ Phil Norton)

International transport emissions are not explicitly covered by the Paris climate deal (Flickr/ Phil Norton)


16:10 – A big moment for Palestine as President Mahmoud Abbas signs the deal. The state has only just won the right to act as a full party to UN climate talks, rather than an observer.

It triggered calls from Republicans for the US to halt funding to the UN climate body, as the US officially does not recognise Palestine. The State Department declined to comment.

For Palestine, which is at risk of water scarcity in a changing climate, membership is a big deal. It plans to submit a climate plan later this year, lead envoy Nedal Katbeh-Bader told Climate Home.


16:01 – Brian Deese, a top adviser to President Barack Obama, explains in Medium why the US wants to bring the Paris Agreement into force as soon as possible.

The US has committed to formally joining the deal in 2016, he writes, along with dozens of large and small countries.

“This shared commitment to early entry into force will increase momentum for global climate action and encourage countries to enact more ambitious, durable domestic climate policies going forward.”


15:56 – In the hall, after another brass interlude, the book is open for signatures. President Holland goes first for France.


15:54 – Ed King is covering  press call from the “high ambition coalition”, involving the Marshall Islands, EU, US and Costa Rica.

EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete repeated his promise that the EU would seek to get all 28 member states to ratify the Paris Agreement “as soon as possible”.

“This will add assurance that will be on a solid legal basis,” he said. In Paris, members of the diverse coalition “put aside self-interests,” said Canete, expressing hopes it will coalesce again this year.

For the agreement to work all countries will need to “set higher targets” and enforce new regulations, he added.


1545 – Leonardo DiCaprio challenges delegates to put themselves on the right side of history.

“Our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground, where they belong,” he says. “You are the last best hope of Earth.”


15:35 – Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, from a pastoralist community in Chad talks about how Lake Chad is disappearing.

Thirty years ago, her mother used to walk 10km a day to collect water and food. Now, people are becoming climate refugees because the water is not there.

Traditional knowledge is not enough, she says: they need investment in climate adaptation.

chad lady


15:25 – Morocco is hosting the next UN climate summit in Marrakech this December. Princess Lalla Hasna looks forward to welcoming everyone and consolidating the Paris deal.

There are three more speakers to go before lunch, representing the business community, civil society and *drum roll* Leonardo DiCaprio.


15:16 – John Kerry, US secretary of state, casts his mind back to the first Earth Day in 1970. It’s been a long road to Paris and that’s not the end of it.

“Today is a day to mark and to celebrate the hard work done by so many to win the battle of securing the Paris Agreement. But knowing what we know, today is a day to recommit ourselves to actually win this war.”


14:52 – Canada’s Justin Trudeau gets a big cheer. Is he going to dazzle us with his yoga moves or knowledge of quantum computing?

No, just another speech, I’m afraid. Here’s a video clip posted by his environment minister Catherine McKenna earlier.


14:45 – China’s vice premier Zhang Gaoli says Beijing will ratify the deal before September’s G20 meeting in Hangzhou and encourage others to do the same.


14:40 – Remember, for the deal to come into force, 55 countries covering 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions need to sign and join the agreement.

Over 170 countries totaling over 93% of global GHG emissions are expected to sign the Paris Agreement today, according to calculations by World Resource Institute (WRI).

That is the easy part, however. Ratification or “approval”, in the case of the US, will take longer. While the US, China and India have committed to formalise the deal swiftly, EU members are expected to take about two years to get through the political process.

Use the app below from the WRI to work out how the 55% GHG goal could be met.


14:35 – In the room, we have had the presidents of Peru, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bolivia.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales was on characteristically fiery form, calling for businesses to be punished for climate destruction. “Ladies and gentlemen, say it with me: ‘Pachamama, o muerte’ [Mother Earth or death]”.

Now it’s Dilma Rousseff, the Brazil president, who’s no doubt happy to take a break from the impeachment process back home.


14:29 – There’s no UK prime minister David Cameron in New York; he’s hanging out with US president Barack Obama (press conference due at 1700 BST) back home. Instead climate minister Lord Bourne will sign for Britain.

To confuse you further, we have been sent reaction to the signing from Amber Rudd, the UK’s top climate lawmaker. She is not there either. Friends of the Earth dumped a tonne of coal outside her office this morning, urging her to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Unperturbed, Rudd is bullish over UK and EU climate leadership.

“The UK is one of the first developed countries to deliver on a commitment to taking coal off the system, putting an end date on it as part of the action we are taking to cut emissions as cost effectively as possible.

“The global deal reached in Paris was a significant milestone in tackling climate change, helping to safeguard our long-term economic security and giving clear direction to businesses as we transition to a low carbon economy.”


14:25 – New York was once called New Amsterdam, which I’m sure we can all agree was too long. But there’s an important meeting taking place in the Dutch city today: a meeting of EU finance ministers where they will discuss “carbon risk testing” for European firms. That would mean companies having to calculate their exposure to fossil fuels and future climate-related weather impacts.

Here’s Camilla de Ste Croix from ShareAction: “EU policy action is required to protect the pensions and savings of millions of European citizens. Economy Ministers must this week call on the European Commission to propose relevant policies to assess and mitigate risks and boost opportunities – with the review of the Capital Markets Union in 2017 a major opportunity for implementation.”


Elizabeth_Gallagher_2015_165_220_60gray14:23 – We heard from a clearly emotional Ban Ki-moon at the start of today’s proceedings. This event was his idea and in his final year as UN secretary general he has made ensuring the Paris Agreement becomes a reality one of his priorities.

Liz Gallagher, senior associate at think tank E3G, says his speech showed his “deep compassion” and commitment to tackling poverty and global warming.

“His comment on ‘the era of consumption without consequence is over’ shows how he combined his discretion and diplomacy with the likes of the French and Brazilians as well as others to deliver an incredible set of agreements in 2015 that mark a new model of development, a smarter, cleaner and more prosperous future.”


14:18 – Away from the brass band, back slapping and general UN Ban Ki-moon banter there are some announcements going down. For starters, city leaders don’t want to be left out.

Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro and Chair of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Park Won Soon, Mayor of Seoul and president of the ICLEI group of local governments for sustainability have signed a pledge to accelerate city-led low carbon development.

460 local governments covering 390 million people have now signed the “Compact of Mayors”, which aims to deliver up to half of the needed emissions cuts by 2020. More on that here.

(Flickr/Mariano Mantel)

(Flickr/Mariano Mantel)


14:10 – If you think watching the UN ceremony makes you a nerd, well, you’re in good company.

Hollywood’s own Leonardo DiCaprio – recent Oscar-winner – is tuned into the webcast. The first response to his tweet? @Metaknight says: “Ok dad”.


14:03 – Francois Hollande, president of France, talks about the destruction of ecosystems wrought by climate change and the importance of carbon pricing.

On the significance of the day, he says: “This is now more than a commitment; this will now become a text taking its place in the annals of international law.”

Hollande explains the next stage is to ratify the deal. To enter into force, 55 countries representing at least 55% of global emissions must submit their ratification documents.

He urges government to show the best, not the worst of humanity in implementing the deal.


13:55 – Back to Ban Ki-moon. He now says 171 countries are in New York to sign the deal and 15 will ratify.

It was already expected to break the record for first-day signatures set by the Law of the Sea with 119 in 1982.

It’s a sign of how essential it has become for countries’ international standing to be seen as constructive on the climate agenda.


13:48 – After a brief blast from a brass ensemble, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon introduces 16-year-old Gertrude Clement from Tanzania.

“We expect action on a big scale. We expect action today and not tomorrow,” she tells delegates.

youth rep


13:38 – The opening ceremony is about to start. People are milling around, taking selfies. China’s Xie Zhenhua shakes hands with Todd Stern, the US negotiator who stepped down last month.


13:30 – Today is a victory lap for the diplomats and ministers who thrashed out a historic climate deal in Paris last December.

The action moves to the UN headquarters in New York, where 167 countries (plus the EU) are set to sign the pact in a grand ceremony.

I’m Megan Darby kicking off the live blog. Sadly, our budget doesn’t stretch to a trip to the Big Apple, so this is coming to you via the UN webcast.

Stay tuned for instant commentary and analysis of the big day.

Read more on: Breaking News | Climate Politics