NEW YORK (AA) – The Paris Climate Agreement agreed to in December was opened Friday to signing by 171 countries UN headquarters in New York.
“We are in a race against time,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“I urge all countries to move quickly to join the agreement at the national level so that the Paris agreement can enter into force as early as possible,” he said.
Stressing that the window to keep global temperatures from rising well below two degrees Celsius is rapidly closing, Ban said: “The era of consumption without consequences is over. We must intensify efforts to decarbonize our economies.”
Climate action is not a burden but offers benefits, Ban said, including from eradicating poverty and creating green jobs to preventing instability and achieving sustainable development.
He noted that he has worked toward this day since becoming the UN chief when he declared climate change his top priority and called for action.
“This covenant must amount to more than promises. It must find expression in actions we take today … actions that reduce climate risk and protect communities; actions that place us on a safer, smarter path.”
French President Francois Hollande, noted that the agreement had to overcome skepticisms and national interests of countries represented in Paris that forged the accord.
“The agreement needed to be ambitious, binding and universal that it would ensure we will be committed in years to come to reduce temperature rises,” he said.
Noting that there is “urgency” in the deal, Hollande emphasized that words should become actions by world leaders and countries.
He said since December the world has seen temperatures that are the highest in the last century and he pointed to major disasters in Fiji, Africa and around the world.
“I would like to sound the alarm of destruction of ecosystems. Every year 20 million hectares of forests go up in smoke in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa,” he stressed.
Hollande also emphasized that there has never been a time when so many countries were brought together to sign an agreement in a single day.
The 171 countries present to sign the deal will surpass the previous record of 119 signatures for an opening day signing of an international accord set by the Law of the Sea in Montego Bay in 1982.
Leonardo DiCaprio, actor and UN Messenger of Peace said climate change is happening even faster than most pessimistic scientists warned decades ago. “It has become a runaway freight train bringing with it disaster for all living things.”
Reversing the course of climate change would not be easy, he said, but stressed that tools such as renewable energy and putting a price on carbon, are available.
“The world is now watching … we shall save, or lose, the last best hope of Earth,” he added.
Author Övünç Kutlu
[Photo: COP21 summit demonstration near Arc de Triomphe in Paris on 12 December 2015. Photographer: Mustafa Yalcin/AA]