Foreign secretary Boris Johnson has signed the instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement, making the UK the latest country to officially adopt the commitments made by 197 countries to limit global warming to two degrees.
Making an appearance at COP22 in Marrakesh alongside climate minister Nick Hurd, Johnson’s signature means official documents will now be delivered to the United Nations, notifying it of the UK’s participation in the agreement made last year.
Following Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement in September that ratification would take place by the end of the year, the treaty passed through 21 parliamentary days of scrutiny to allow MPs or Lords to oppose its provisions.
That period expired earlier this week without issue, allowing the government to ratify the pact less than two weeks after the Paris Agreement came into force.
Confirmation of the UK’s involvement in the climate change agreement has been welcomed across the board. Barry Gardiner, Labour’s shadow minister for international climate change, said: "In September we challenged the government to be one of the founder countries to ratify. And though the agreement actually came into force earlier this month, it is good that there is now cross-party support to get on and implement it.
"This strong signal of the UK's commitment to international co-operation on climate change is even more important following the US election,” he added in reference to President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to remove America from the Paris Agreement.
Sir Crispin Tickell, former British Ambassador to the United Nations, said responding to climate change presents significant economic opportunities for the UK.
"Britain's ratification of the historic Paris Agreement is an important moment, not least because our country has for a long time led global efforts to cope with the effects of climate change.
“Just this week it was reported that global emissions have stalled for the third year in a row, despite strong economic growth, reinforcing the view that an effective response to climate change presents significant economic opportunities. Britain’s aim must be to make the most of these as we look to forge new trading relationships based on the industries of the future.
The argument that low-carbon policies are in Britain’s national interest can no longer be contested,” he said.
The pressure will now be on the government to follow up the ratification with policy designed to address the gap in policy leading up to the fifth carbon budget target of a 57% reduction in emissions by 2030.
Gardiner added: “The UK government must now show their commitment through climate action on the ground. Pursuing fracking and a six-fold tax hike on solar business rates only take us in the wrong direction.”
The government was due to publish its Carbon Plan by the end of 2016 however Hurd has hinted in recent months that this is likely to be pushed back into next year.