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Record number of countries to sign historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change on Earth Day

A historic meeting will take place on April 22, 2016, as 155 countries have committed to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the headquarters of the United Nations (UN) in New York.

The agreement was approved by the 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention of the Climate Change (UNFCCC) in COP21 in Paris on Dec. 12, 2015. In the agreement, all countries pledged to work to limit the temperature rise overall below 2 degrees Celsius, but are aiming to achieve a temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Following the Friday event at the UN headquarters, the period for signatures will remain open for one year, so that all parties can sign to validate the Paris Agreement and to ratify it.

The signing ceremony will take place during the morning and early Friday afternoon. In it the Paris Agreement will be signed officially by the representatives of the parties to the UNFCCC. Parallel to the signing, representatives of countries will make their national statements and deliver the instruments of ratification, or specific action plans to combat climate change.

The opening takes place in the hall of the General Assembly, with the Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon, President of France Francois Hollande, the President of the COP21 Segolene Royal and the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC Christiana Figueres, according to UN officials.

"The number of countries that have indicated their intention to attend and sign the Paris Agreement on 22 April is now up to 155," said the Spokesman for the UN Secretary General Farhan Haq in a press conference last Friday.

What are countries committing to when they sign the Paris Agreement?

All parties to the UNFCCC are invited to sign the agreement, as stated in a recent press release.

With each country's signing of the agreement, they must also submit a proposal plan for actions for the agreement to be effective.

This process takes many different forms and can be quick or longer, depending on the internal practices of each country.

After each nation completes this process, the action plans will be presented to the Depositary under Ban Ki-moon in New York. It is only when an action plan has been deposited that a country has officially ratified the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement will become effective on the 30th day after the date on which at least 55 parties, which cut at least about 55 percent of total emissions of greenhouse gases, have reached the full requirements under the agreement, the statement said.

Referring to the political will and the massive wave of action that allowed the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement last December, UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres said in a talk at TED 2016 last February in Vancouver, "Impossible isn't a fact; it's an attitude."

In her talk, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC explains how the world's nations "met and decided unanimously to intentionally change the course of the world economy in order to protect the most vulnerable and improve the lives of us all."

This Friday, a record number of countries under the UNFCCC will meet in New York to sign the agreement, which is expected to enter into force quickly, sending a strong signal of commitment to combat climate change. The old record for international countries signing an agreement goes back to the Law of the Sea in Montego Bay, which was signed by 119 countries on opening day in 1982.

Signing of climate change agreement coincides with international Earth Day celebration

This year's Earth Day coincides with the ceremony of the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

In 2009 the UN General Assembly decided to designate April 22 as International Mother Earth Day, with the resolution A/RES/63/278. Representatives at the meeting acknowledged that Mother Earth is a common expression for the planet Earth in a number of countries and regions, and that this demonstrates the interdependence between human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit, and noting that Earth Day is observed each year in many countries.

By 2016 the theme chosen is: Trees for Earth. In the United States, Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 and is organized by the Earth Day Network whose mission is to broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide and mobilize as the most effective vehicle for building a healthy, sustainable environment, tackling climate change and protecting the Earth for future generations.

Leading up to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and emphasizing the theme of this year, the Earth Day Network has set a target of planting 7.8 million trees in the next five years.

Trees help to combat climate change as they absorb excess CO2 that is harmful to the Earth's atmosphere. In fact, in one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced by driving the average car 26,000 miles, as described by the UN on the International Day of Mother Earth website.

Trees also help to counter the loss of species. Likewise, for the different communities and their livelihoods, trees help achieve economic and environmental sustainability in the long term and provide food, energy and income.

This year the International Mother Day will be historic with the formal invitation that Ban Ki-moon has extended to governments to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

"The world now has an agreement on universal, equitable, flexible and durable climate," Ki-moon said. "Our task is not over. In fact, it's just begun. In 2016, we must move from words to deeds. The signing ceremony this April 22 is an essential step."

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