India has become the latest Commonwealth nation to ratify the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, meaning the historic deal is closer to reaching the required signatories to enter into force.
More than half of the 62 countries to have now signed on to the agreement are members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland congratulated the Government of Narendra Modi after his cabinet approved the decision to hand over ratification documents at a ceremony at the United Nations in New York on Sunday.
Secretary-General Scotland said: “It is hugely significant that India, with her 1.3 billion citizens making it the most populous country in the Commonwealth, has signed up to the Paris climate agreement and is showing such exemplary leadership. This lifts our hopes that the agreement will soon enter into force and follows Commonwealth campaigning on climate change since member states first spoke out on this issue in 1989.
“Since then, led by the small and vulnerable states, the Commonwealth has pushed for an agreement ahead of all the major international summits, most recently with the leadership Commonwealth heads of government showed in Malta being core to the success of the Paris Agreement. The simple fact is: without the combined voices of the member states of the Commonwealth, the Paris Agreement would not have happened.
“Now it is our responsibility to turn the agreement into action. It is an example of the Commonwealth leading the way, with more than half of signatories to the agreement being member states. It is especially fitting that India’s ratification occurred on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who as Prime Minister Modi has stated, himself inspired others to live with a low-carbon footprint.”
The COP21 Paris Agreement was agreed in December 2015, days after Commonwealth Heads of Government issued a Statement on Climate Action at their biennial summit in Malta committing to a climate change ‘speed limit’ of two degrees and an aspiration for 1.5 degrees.
It will enter into force only when 55 countries producing at least 55 per cent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions approve it. To-date, 62 countries have formally ratified it, 33 of which are Commonwealth (52%) and of these, 25 are small states most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
European Union countries have also agreed to fast-track ratification of the agreement, with a European Parliament vote scheduled for Tuesday 4 October. The Commonwealth Chair in Office, Prime Minister Muscat of Malta, was one of the first leaders to ratify the treaty back in April 2016 alongside many of the other small and vulnerable states in the Commonwealth.
Photo caption: India ratifies the Paris Agreement on climate change: India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Syed Akbaruddin (left), shakes hands with UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson