Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has officially signed the Paris Agreement on climate change at a United Nations ceremony in New York.
“These actions are just the beginning,” said Trudeau, speaking to gathered world leaders. “When nations work together, we can address climate change.”
The agreement was actually reached last December, but this Earth Day – Friday, April 22 – was chosen as the day for leaders to officially sign the document.
A record number of 171 countries have signed on to try to limit the world’s temperature increase to less than two degrees.
“Record global temperatures. Record ice loss. Record carbon levels in the atmosphere. We are in a race against time,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The next step, ratification by governments back home, has already been enacted by 15 countries.
But the agreement will only come into effect 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55% of global greenhouse gases produced, have ratified it.
And while campaigners want everyone to ratify the agreement as quickly as possible, different government procedures and upcoming elections could tie things up for some time.
That’s particularly true for the U.S. and China – the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, who have signed the agreement, but whose plans to ratify are not clear.
In the end, the success of the agreement may simply come down to the outcome of the U.S. election – and whether the winning candidate trumps the true north strong and free.