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COP21 Switzerland signs Paris climate agreement

Geneva residents take part in the Global Climate March ahead of the Paris COP21

(Keystone)

The Swiss Environment Minister, Doris Leuthard, signed the Paris climate agreement on Friday at the UN headquarters in New York. Switzerland is likely to ratify the agreement by the end of 2017.

“Signing this agreement is more than just a symbolic gesture. We are saying yes to a world that will gradually leave the fossil fuel era behind it,” said Leuthard. She added that Switzerland plans to ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of 2017. 

The environment minister called for innovation to create a green economy based on renewable energy, sustainable transport and energy efficiency, and cited the example of the Swiss solar aircraft Solar Impulse as “proof we have technologies and possibilities to make a change”. 

“Switzerland has been applying a host of measures for many years now. Thanks to these measures our emissions fell, even with economic growth and even with a rising population,” she said. 

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Representatives from around 170 countries signed the Paris climate agreement on Friday that was adopted on December 12, 2015 in Paris. The rest have until next April next year to sign it. To enter into force, the Paris agreement has to be ratified by at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The deadline for this is 2020 but experts hope that this threshold will be reached this year. 

"We are in a race against time," said UN. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. "The era of consumption without consequences is over." 

Road to ratification 

The Swiss cabinet had approved the Paris climate agreement at its March 23 meeting, formally establishing the broad outlines of Switzerland’s domestic and international climate policy until 2030. Once parliament also approves it, Switzerland can commit to halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. But in order to accomplish this, the Swiss CO2 Act will need to be revised. The cabinet decided that three-fifths of the reductions must be domestic measures, and the other two-fifths can be from offsets taken abroad. 

In December 2015, Switzerland joined more than 190 countries that agreed to a landmark climate treaty in Paris at the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). The agreement, which replaces the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, will come into effect in 2020. It mentions the peaking of “global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”, and pursuing efforts to limit that to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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