How does an international agreement get adopted? What happens after? When does it come into effect? You’ve been asking all these questions as the Paris Agreement signing date approaches. Here are the answers:

 Why is this signing ceremony being held on 22 April?

The Paris Agreement calls for the Agreement to be open for signature from 22 April, 2016 to 21 April, 2017. To mark the first day that the Agreement will be open for signing (which coincides with Earth Day), United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited leaders from all countries to attend a high-level signing ceremony to accelerate climate action and to drive the political momentum towards ratification and early entry into force of the Paris Agreement.

Didn’t countries already adopt the Paris Agreement in Paris? Didn’t they agree to everything?

On 12 December, 2015, countries adopted the text of the Paris Agreement. This was an historic moment that marked the conclusion of years of negotiations on a universal approach to addressing climate change. In Paris, the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change came to an understanding of the terms of the Agreement. There are still a few steps that are necessary before the Agreement enters into force.

What has to happen next for the Paris Agreement to enter into force?

The first step is for countries to sign the Agreement. This signals their intention to launch the domestic processes for the ratification or acceptance of the Agreement.  Once these processes are concluded, Governments will formally deposit with the United Nations Secretary-General, who is the depositary of the Paris Agreement, their instrument of ratification, approval, acceptance or accession, by which they consent to be bound by the Agreement.

So when can the Paris Agreement actually enter into force?

The Agreement states that it shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the UNFCCC accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

How will the 55 percent of emissions be calculated for the purposes of the entry into force? According to the Agreement, this requirement for the entry into force is to be calculated on the basis of the most up-to-date amount communicated on or before the date of adoption of this Agreement by the Parties to the Convention.  As requested by the Paris Conference, the Climate Change Secretariat has made available this information (which is to be used only for the purpose of determining the requirements for the entry into force) on its website, as well as in the report of the Conference.

What will actually happen on 22 April?

The signature place will take place at the General Assembly Hall in the morning of 22 April. Heads of State and Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs or other government representatives having the authority to sign the Agreement will be called up to a table at the podium to sign a page in the only original copy of the Agreement. The original is a large volume, which contains the full authentic text of the Agreement in all six official United Nations languages, as well as signature pages for each of the Parties to the UNFCCC.  After signing the Agreement, separate sessions will be held in which participants will have an opportunity to deliver national remarks.

What happens if countries don’t sign on 22 April?

Countries have one year to sign the Agreement, following which they may ratify, accept or approve the Agreement.  States that have not signed will still have the possibility of joining the Agreement by depositing an instrument of accession with the Secretary-General.

Why is the Secretary-General the depositary for the Agreement and what does that mean?

The Paris Agreement, like most international agreements concluded under the auspices of the United Nations, designates the Secretary-General to serve as the depositary.  This means that the Secretary-General is the sole custodian of the original of the Agreement, and performs a number of key functions relating to participation in the Agreement, such as receiving any signatures to the Agreement or any instruments or communications relating to it and informing the parties of the entry into force of the Agreement.

Is the signing the only thing that will happen on 22 April?

The Signing Ceremony will be the centrepiece of the day, but there is much more taking place. The Ceremony will begin with a one-hour opening ceremony featuring world leaders and youth, civil society, and private sector representatives. This will be followed by the signing ceremony itself and separate sessions for national statements. There will be a lunch that focuses on promoting the financial flows that will be necessary to implement climate action and the Paris Agreement, and there will be a dialogue that will look at how various sectors are gearing up to implement the Agreement.