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World Leaders Turn out in Force to Sign Climate Deal

UNITED NATIONS: Over 170 world leaders gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Friday to sign the Paris agreement on climate change — the landmark accord that sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous global warming.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan signed the accord on behalf of Pakistan.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas got the biggest ovation of all as he came to sign the agreement in a packed General Assembly hall.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also won applause as he brought his three-year-old granddaughter to the ceremony.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on member states to move quickly to sign the accord so that it could enter into force as early as possible.

“Let us never forget — climate action is not a burden; indeed, it offers many benefits,” the UN chief said as he opened the signature ceremony.

“The era of consumption without consequences is over. We must intensify efforts to decarbonise our economies. And we must support developing countries in making this transition. The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create,” Mr Ban said in an impassioned plea for action to reverse climate change.

Palestinian president gets big ovation as he steps up to sign accord

“It can help us eradicate poverty, create green jobs, defeat hunger, prevent instability and improve the lives of girls and women.”

Agencies add: French President Francois Hollande was the first leader to put his signature to the accord, and was followed by leaders from island-states hardest hit by climate change.

It was the largest one-day signing of an international agreement, marking a first step towards binding countries to the promises they made to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is a moment in history,” Mr Ban said in his opening remarks. “Today you are signing a new covenant with the future.”

“Some may say it’s only a small step. We need to make it a huge one,” said the prime minister of the Polynesian island of Tuvalu, Enele Sosene Sopoaga.

Together the signatories account for 93 per cent of global greenhouse gas, according to calculations by the World Resource Institute.

The French president called on governments to quickly ratify the Paris deal and singled out the European Union, saying the 28-nation bloc should “lead by example” and give final approval before the end of the year.

The Paris agreement will come into force as soon as 55 countries responsible for 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases have ratified it.

The target date for the agreement to begin is 2020, but momentum is building to ensure the accord enters into force much earlier.

Actor and environmental campaigner Leonardo DiCaprio urged leaders to move quickly, telling them: “The world is now watching.”

“You will either be lauded by future generations or be vilified by them,” he added.

China and the United States have said they will ratify this year and are pushing for others to follow suit so that the agreement becomes operational possibly as early as late 2016 or 2017. But the European Union may take up to a year and half for the ratification.

Caught in election-year turmoil, the United States plans to ratify the Paris accord with an executive agreement, bypassing the Senate and setting up a complex process for any future president wishing to pull out.

Moving quickly, 15 countries, mostly island states, have already fully approved the agreement and will formally present the completed ratification to the United Nations.

“We are in a race against time,” Mr Ban told the gathering at the UN General Assembly.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2016

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