In December last year, the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ("Convention") adopted the Paris Agreement in an effort to keep global temperature rises “to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.”

The Agreement was not legally binding on the parties until the three criteria in Article 21 were satisfied. Article 21 required that:

  1. the Agreement be ratified by at least 55 countries;
  2. the ratifying countries account for at least 55% of estimated global GHG emissions; and
  3. once the above two criteria are met, 30 days pass before the Agreement comes into operation.

On 21 September 2016, a further 31 signatories to the Convention deposited their instruments of ratification or acceptance, pushing the total amount of countries to have ratified the Agreement to 60. Whilst this achieved the first requirement, these 60 countries did not account for at least 55% of estimated global GHG emissions.

On 5 October 2016, a further 10 signatories to the Convention, together with the European Union, ratified the Agreement. These countries accounted for 6.71% of estimated global GHG emissions, tipping the total estimated global GHG emissions beyond the 55% threshold. With the second requirement for entry into force achieved on 5 October 2016, the Paris Agreement will enter into force 30 days from that date, on 4 November 2016.

The Information Note prepared by the UNFCCC Legal Affairs Programme in April this year predicted that if the Paris Agreement entered into force early it “would have a catalytic effect, spurring strong and decisive action by Parties and stakeholders” which “would also serve as a strong incentive for all Parties to the Convention to ratify the Agreement as soon as possible to ensure universal participation in its implementation.”

Australia is still yet to ratify the Paris Agreement and formalise its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution – a 26‑28% reduction in its own GHG emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. It is hoped that Paris Agreement’s entry into force will provide the impetus for it to do so.