UK to ratify Paris climate change deal this year
22 September 2016 | Mitigation
Theresa May has given her first major commitment that Britain will continue to tackle climate change after leaving the EU, as she promised to ratify the Paris agreement by the end of the year.
The prime minister used her maiden speech at the United Nations in New York to say the UK remained determined to “play our part in the international effort against climate change … In a demonstration of our commitment to the agreement reached in Paris, the UK will start its domestic procedures to enable ratification of the Paris agreement and complete these before the end of the year,” she said.
The UK was party to negotiations as part of the EU and will be expected to take on emissions reductions based on an EU-wide “burden-sharing” agreement, which is yet to be worked out.
May’s decision to speed up ratification will relieve green campaigners and charities amid worries that the new prime minister could start retreating from Britain’s position as a leader on tackling climate change after leaving the EU. She has rarely spoken about the subject in the past and was accused of a regressive step when she abolished the Department of Energy and Climate Change after taking office.
However, pressure on the prime minister to agree to ratify the deal intensified after China and the US made a joint declaration that they would do so earlier in the month.
A UK official said the prime minister’s announcement was “absolutely a reflection of her commitment to delivering on that international agreement where the UK has been at the forefront of efforts”.
The UK negotiated at the Paris climate talks as part of the EU, which is a major emitter but is not expected to ratify this year. Member states can also ratify separately. France, which hosted last December’s summit, ratified in June and François Hollande has called on countries to redouble their efforts to ratify before the next major UN climate summit in Marrakesh in November.
Greg Clark, the secretary of state for business, said: “The government is determined to tackle climate change to help create a safer and more prosperous future for us all. That is why we are now starting the process of ratifying the landmark climate deal signed in Paris.”
Business groups hailed the move for sending a clear signal to companies to invest in the UK.
Labour, which has previously urged May to hurry up and ratify the deal, welcomed a timeframe for action. Barry Gardiner, shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: “The UK played a significant role in the world reaching a global climate deal in Paris. As other major economies surge forward on climate action, it is important that the UK does not get left behind.
“I’m glad that Theresa May has - at last - recognised the need for the UK to remain a responsible global player on this crucial issue by setting a firm deadline to ratify the Paris climate agreement by the end of this year.”
Source: The Guardian