Why It Matters

A vital step to save the planet

The European Parliament this week voted to ratify the United Nations Paris climate agreement. The vote means one of the world's most important environmental and economic accords will go into force by early next month.

The agreement is meant to underpin a rapid transformation of the global economy towards cleaner energy and less greenhouse gas pollution. It's a vital, and urgent, collective effort to fight climate change. But it's just the start.

Under the Paris accord, nations have agreed to action plans to reduce emissions and green their economies. Those national action plans will be regularly reviewed and strengthened over time. The accord is legally binding, applicable to all and must be transparent to all.

Few expected the accord to go into force so soon. The pact was agreed in Paris last December by nearly 200 nations and since then the UN, the United States, China and others have been pushing for rapid ratification. Dozens of countries accounting for more than half the world's carbon pollution have ratified it and the European Parliament's vote pushed it across the threshold to go into force.

The accord and quick ratification, though, won't save us from a rapidly warming world and the urgent need to slash carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. Rules to implement and monitor the pact must now be quickly finalised. And the cuts pledged so far aren't deep enough to avoid dangerous climate change events, such as more powerful storms, rising sea levels and deadlier droughts.

That leaves a large ambition gap between the dangers of a hotter world and ineffective emission cuts. This year has broken heat records around the globe, following on from 2014 and 2015, which were the world's hottest years recorded in modern times.

The Paris accord is just the beginning.

Implementing it and getting governments and industry to make rapid and deeper emission cuts is vital for the global economy and all life on the planet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'A vital step to save the planet'. Print Edition | Subscribe