U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and 174 other world leaders gathered at the U.N. headquarters on Friday, April 22, to officially sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which aims to mitigate the impact of global warming.
The accord is considered a major breakthrough in efforts to reduce greenhouse gases around the world, receiving support from countries that represent 93 percent of total global emissions. No other international agreement has ever received such a number of signatory nations on the first day.
"Today is a day to mark and celebrate the hard work done by so many to win the battle of securing the Paris Agreement," Kerry said. "But knowing what we know, this is also a day to recommit ourselves to actually win this war."
While the Paris accord has already been ratified by 14 countries, mostly small island nations, it has to be approved by 55 countries in order to be effected. Other agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, were held up in the past because of the various procedures and internal politics involved in the ratification process in each country.
Advocates of the climate change agreement, however, are confident that ratifying it would not be as problematic as previous ones. They said that the Paris accord was carefully crafted to make sure that signatories could have it approved without encountering complicated political arguments in their countries.
Supporters also pointed out that some aspects of the agreement, such as reporting requirements, are meant to be binding while other aspects, such as taking on specific measures, are not. The main goal of the Paris accord is to prevent global temperatures from reaching levels beyond 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2100.
Drafters of the accord made sure that it could be ratified in the U.S. without triggering a protracted battle in the Senate, which could delay its enactment for years.
Kerry said that the U.S. would approve the Paris Climate Change Agreement by the end of 2016, which suggests that the Obama administration would no longer seek the Senate's approval of the document.
China also said that it will have the agreement ratified before the start of the G-20 conference later in the year.
China and the U.S. are two of the biggest producers of greenhouse gases in the world, accounting for 40 percent of total emissions.