• Fairfax Media

Paris climate accord to go into force, Australia misses out

The Paris climate accord negotiated last year has been ratified by enough countries for it to go into force.

A group of European nations raised support for the Paris Climate Change Agreement to countries that represent 56.75 per cent of world greenhouse gas emissions, above the 55 per cent needed for implementation.

President Barack Obama welcomes the news that the Paris agreement on climate change will take effect in a month as a historic achievement. Photo: AP

​Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Malta - European Union nations that have completed domestic ratification and account for about 4 per cent of emissions - formally signed up on Wednesday.

In total, 72 countries out of 195 have ratified the agreement, the UN said.

Smoke belches from the chimney of a factory on the outskirts of Gauhati, India. The country formally joined the Paris accord on Sunday. Photo: AP

However, Australia has missed out on being part of the historic moment.

The federal government only tabled the agreement in Parliament in its first week back after the July 2 election.

The parliamentary committee into treaties is still examining the deal, with a public hearing on Thursday and submissions closing on Friday.

Historic day: Obama

"Today is a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations," US President Barack Obama told reporters in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday.

"Today, the world has officially crossed the threshold for the Paris agreement to take effect.

"If we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet."

The deal will formally start in 30 days on November 4 - four days before the US presidential election in which Republican Donald Trump opposes the accord and Democrat Hillary Clinton strongly supports it.

China and the United States joined up last month in a joint step by the world's top emitters.

China and the US together account for about 38 per cent of global emissions. Because the accord is not a treaty, US ratification did not require a vote by the Senate, where Republicans mostly oppose the agreement.

India, the planet's fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, formally joined the accord on Sunday.

Other countries to have signed include Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and New Zealand.

The UN's top climate official Patricia Espinosa said the ratification was a "powerful combination" of the importance countries attached to climate change and the realisation of opportunities from the deal. "The speed at which countries have made the Paris agreement's entry into force possible is unprecedented in recent experience of international agreements," she said in a statement.

Australia still trying

A spokesman for Australia's Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the government was trying to get it ratified as soon as possible.

The parliamentary committee was looking at the deal as part of Australia's domestic processes, he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop insists Australia wants to ratify the agreement before the end of the year.

The election is being blamed for the delay in tabling the agreement.

But Greenpeace said it was time for Australia to follow the lead of countries such as China and prove it's serious about climate change.

"It's unfortunate that, at a time in history when other world leaders are taking action in the global battle against climate change, Australia's ill-informed political leaders are hurling insults at wind turbines," Greenpeace Australia senior climate campaigner Nikola Casule said.

3 degrees warming predicted

It took eight years for the previous UN climate deal, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, to gain enough backing to take effect.

It obliged only rich nations to cut emissions and the United States stayed out of it.

UN studies project that average world temperatures are set to rise by 3 degrees or more by 2100, based on current trends.

And this year is expected to prove the warmest since records began in the 19th century, beating 2015.

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