The United Nations expects the number of countries that will sign the Paris climate change agreement at an April 22 ceremony in New York to exceed the record for the number signing up to an international accord on the day it opens.
That is according to Selwin Hart, director of the UN secretary-general’s climate change support team, who said the largest number to date was 119 countries that signed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on December 10, 1982.
“There is extremely strong political will to be part of this historic moment,” he said.
“Countries are excited and energised around participating.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, and UN expectations are that 120 or more nations will sign the accord.
That is a lot more than the 80 to 100 mentioned earlier this month by Segolene Royal, France’s environment minister who recently took over as chair of the UN climate talks.
Mr Hart said “many” heads of state and government were due to attend the ceremony at UN headquarters, including Canada’s prime minister and the French president.
Any representative designated by a country can formally sign the agreement, and Mr Hart said that signing the accord would enable it to be accepted at the national level.
The so called Paris Agreement is due to take effect in 2020, but requires at least 55 countries representing at least 55 per cent of global emissions to ratify or accede to it first.
In a message to mark World Meteorological Day, the UN chief warned that the window of opportunity for meeting that temperature goal “is narrow and rapidly shrinking”.
“Climate change is accelerating at an alarming rate,” said Mr Ban.
Last week, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) confirmed that temperatures in 2015 were about 1.0°C above the pre-industrial era for the first time on record.
The record temperatures over both land and the ocean surface in 2015, due to an exceptionally strong El Niño weather phenomenon and global warming caused by greenhouse gases, were accompanied by many extreme weather events such as heatwaves, flooding and severe drought, the agency said.
“The world must act now to transform the global economy for low-emissions growth and to strengthen resilience to the inevitable changes to come, especially in less well-developed countries,” Mr Ban said in his statement.