signing ceremony that took place at the UN General Assembly hall in New York. This was the largest number of nations to ever sign a formal agreement at a signing ceremony. The event in New York follows the historic agreement achieved at COP21 in Paris last December. This made Earth Day 2016 the most hopeful such event in its 45 year history.
The world's top emitters China, the US, Europe, India and Russia signed the agreement. A total of.175 of the 195 countries that agreed to the Paris deal were present at the signing ceremony. The other 20 leaders that did not sign are expected to do so between now and April 21, 2017.
The signing must be followed up by each nation's the issuance of formal "instruments of ratification" for "acceptance and approval.” For most nations that involves ratification by parliament or the Senate. In the US President Obama outmaneuvered Republican opposition in the Senate by entering into what is called an "executive agreement" which does not need congressional approval.
A number of small island nations, the worst hit by rising seas from climate change, were among the first to formally ratify the agreement. This includes the Maldives, Palau, Fiji and 11 Caribbean states. Somalia is also on-board.
To make the agreement legally binding at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions need to ratify the agreement.
"When all is said and done, today will be the largest one-day signing event in the history of the U.N.," US President Barack Obama said in a statement on Friday afternoon.
Former US Vice President Al Gore said: The "historic journey" to ending climate change begins today.
In the video below US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the signing ceremony. He described the signing as a being met with "joy", he went on to say that the agreement sends an important message to markets and it will unleash the power of the private sector to tackle the climate crisis. It will transform our energy mix by moving us away from fossil fuels and towards renewable sources of energy.
To follow the ongoing ratification process click here.