It was a spectacular signal of global intent on Friday when more than 170 governments signed up to the Paris deal. But it’s just the start of a long, hard road

The danger of gala events like the official signing of the climate change treaty at the UN in New York on Friday, crowned with a guest appearance from Leonardo DiCaprio and with 60 heads of state in attendance, is the impression they create that the job is done. It was certainly a spectacular demonstration of global intent to get more than 170 signatures on the deal agreed in Paris in December at the first time of asking; but what matters is making it legally binding. For that, it must be not just signed but ratified by at least 55 countries, and it must cover 55% of emissions. Nor does the Paris deal go far enough. It was only a step on a long, hard road. The targets that each country set themselves do not go nearly far enough. Now the gap between reality and the ambition of holding global warming below 2C needs addressing. In Churchillian rhetoric, this is not the end, nor the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.

There are powerful reasons to pursue the Paris summit objective. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, each of the past 11 months was warmer than the 20th-century average. Nasa statistics showed that 2015 was even hotter than the previous record-setting year of 2014. Yet despite the way the evidence is stacking up, political leaders in polluting countries continue to argue about whether and how fast they need to act. In the US, President Barack Obama’s climate plan has hit trouble in the supreme court, where the regulation of emissions from coal-fired plants has been blocked. Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate for the presidency, is pledged to continue Mr Obama’s commitment to tackling emissions, but her probable rival, Donald Trump, is certainly not. The US and China are committed to ratifying the climate change treaty, but for others, such as India, it may be more complicated.

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Source: Guardian Environment