UK Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed that the UK will have officially ratified the Paris Agreement by the end of 2016, although it is believed the ratification process could be finalised within a matter of weeks. In her maiden speech at the United Nations (UN) general assembly in New York on 20th September, May promised that the UK would play it’s part in the international effort against climate change by joining the US and China in officially ratifying the deal.

The UK originally signed the Paris Agreement through negotiations with the European Union (EU), and was expected to reduce emissions as part of a Member State burden-sharing commitment. Whilst the Brexit vote led many to believe that the EU’s climate pledge would need adjusting, the UK could soon join France as one of the major European countries to officially ratify. May’s announcement is expected to be followed by a raft of ratification announcements, with the UN secretary general’s chief climate adviser Selwin Hart claiming that up to 20 countries could ratify the deal in the coming weeks. In fact, immediately following May’s speech, Poland’s president Andrzej Duda announced that the country had also begun the process of ratifying the agreement.

It remains to be seen whether the public commitments will be enough to surpass the double threshold of 55 countries representing 55% of global emissions ratifying the deal – which is needed to bring it into force. May’s early decisions to abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has sparked furore amongst green groups worried that climate change was “slipping down the agenda”. This scrutiny was heightened further with the recent approval of the controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

With cross-party calls to ratify the Paris Agreement “as soon as possible” surfacing, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) secretary of state Greg Clark revealed that the ratification process was already underway. In response to the announcement, politicians and green groups have welcomed the commitment, claiming that it sends a strong signal to business and investment prospects in the UK.


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