Britain will ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of this year, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged during her first speech at the UN General Assembly in New York.
Addressing global delegates on 20 September, May said: “We will continue to play our part in the international effort against climate change.
“And 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.”
This is first time May has confirmed the UK will remain committed to tackling climate change after the vote to leave the European Union in June. May has faced considerable criticism after she scrapped the Department for Energy and Climate Change just days after being appointed Prime Minister.
The pledge also comes amidst mounting pressure for the Britain to join other major nations such as the US and China in ratifying the climate deal this year.
Reacting to the news, the independent forum Conservative Environment Network said in a statement: “This is terrific news. The UK, and Conservative ministers, played a strong part in securing the Paris Agreement. The world is moving to a more productive, efficient, low carbon economy. … We are confident [this commitment] lays the foundation for a better future, and we look forward to the economic dynamism it will unleash.”
Members of the network include Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, former Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Greg Barker, and former Environment Minister Richard Benyon.
Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, a forum representing 128 European investors managing over €13trn in assets, welcomed May’s pledge, stating: “The Paris Agreement gives an unequivocal signal to investors, so we now look forward to swift action by ministers to implement the policy measures and regulatory frameworks required to ensure climate action and risk disclosure are placed front and centre of the UK’s efforts to secure strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.”
Meanwhile Greenpeace has welcomed the announcement but notes there’s still room for improvement.
As Greenpeace executive director, John Sauven, told the Guardian: “This signal is a welcome moment of clarity amidst the all-pervading Brexit uncertainty, but it could have come with a much speedier timetable. Some of the world’s major economies have already ratified the Paris deal. So why is the UK government taking so long?”
The Paris agreement will only enter into force 30 days after 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions deposit their ratification with the UN. Many are expecting this to happen by the end of this year.
In Europe, both France and Hungary have already ratified the Paris Agreement. However, for the EU – which the UK is technically still a part of – to deposit its ratification with the UN, all 28 members states must first each ratify the climate deal.
Britain’s pledge therefore “sends a signal to other members of the EU that should lead to ratification from them, which will be enough to trigger entry into force this year,” argued Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G.
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