As clocks pass midnight, Pacific islands become first nations where Paris climate deal has come into force

President Taneti Maamau of Kiribati. The eastern islands of Kiribati were among the first to kick off the 2015 Paris Agreement.
President Taneti Maamau of Kiribati. The eastern islands of Kiribati were among the first to kick off the 2015 Paris Agreement.PHOTO: REUTERS

MARRAKESH, Morocco (REUTERS) - As clocks passed midnight into Friday (Nov 4), remote islands in the Pacific Ocean, many in danger of rising seas from global warming, kicked off a rolling coming into force of last year's global agreement to slow climate change.

The 2015 Paris Agreement formally starts on November 4, after winning support from major greenhouse gas emitters led by China and the United States, but legal texts do not specify any time zone.

That means that it came into effect first in the Pacific region, home to low-lying island states on the front lines of storm surges, disruptions to rainfall and a creeping rise in sea levels.

The eastern islands of Kiribati were among the first, followed by countries such as Tonga, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands.

Entry into force in the Pacific, "which is home to vulnerable island nations who have all ratified the agreement, makes for one of those serendipitous moments in history", Mr Thoriq Ibrahim, environment minister of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, told Reuters.

Mr Ibrahim will chair the alliance of small island states at talks among almost 200 nations in Marrakesh from November 7-18 to try to find ways to implement the Paris Agreement, partly by working out rules for an often vague text.

The Paris Agreement seeks to wean the world economy off fossil fuels in the second half of the century and limit a rise in average world temperatures to "well below" 2 deg C above pre-industrial times.

On Thursday (Nov 3), however, the United Nation said greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will exceed by 12 billion to 14 billion tonnes what is needed to keep global warming to the agreed target.

The agreement is formally starting 30 days after it passed a threshold of 55 nations accounting for more than 55 per cent of greenhouse gases.

Shadowing the agreement, however, is the possible election of Republican Donald Trump, an opponent, as US president.

In theory, it takes four years of legal formalities to withdraw after entry into force.

But Mr Trump opposes the Paris deal and doubts that human activities, led by burning of fossil fuels, affect the climate. Democrat Hillary Clinton strongly supports the Paris Agreement.