The Paris Agreement to combat climate change became international law on Friday — a landmark deal about tackling global warming amid growing fears that the world is becoming hotter even faster than scientists expected.
So far, 96 countries, accounting for just over two-thirds of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, have formally joined the accord, which seeks to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). More countries are expected to come aboard in the coming weeks and months.
Secretary General Ban-Ki moon commemorated the event, talking with civil society groups at U.N. headquarters in New York to hear their concerns and visions for the future.
While the Paris agreement is legally binding, the emissions reductions that each country has committed to are not. Instead, the agreement seeks to create a transparent system that will allow the public to monitor how well each country is doing in meeting its goals in hopes that this will motivate them to transition more quickly to clean, renewable energy like wind, solar and hydropower.
The agreement also requires governments to develop climate action plans that will be periodically revised and replaced with new, even more ambitious, plans. Many of these details will begin to be addressed at the COP22 climate change meeting that begins next week in Marrakech, Morocco.