A global pact on climate action is expected to soon came into effect with 175 member nations of the United Nations, including India, China and the United States, signing the Paris Climate Agreement on the opening day of UN talks on climate action.
The agreement was signed at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, the first day of global climate talks, which also coincided with 'International Mother Earth Day'.
The historic global deal also marks a significant step that has brought together developing and developed nations for action on cutting down greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming.
Other nations, including some of the world's largest oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria and Kazakhstan, said they will sign the agreement later, according to the World Resources Institute.
While the signing of the climate agreement marks the culmination of years of negotiations, world leaders admitted that the agreement itself is of no use without concerted action by nations.
The agreement, which comes amidst warnings that nations and societies will be importing water by 2050, however, seems to have come late. Leaders attending the summit also admitted that more action is needed, and quickly, to fight a relentless rise in global temperatures.
With the planet heating up to record levels, sea levels rising and glaciers melting, the pressure to have the Paris Agreement enter into force and to have every country turn its words into deeds was palpable at the UN signing ceremony.
''The world is in a race against time,'' UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening speech. ''The era of consumption without consequences is over.''
''Today you are signing a new covenant with the future. This covenant must amount to more than promises,'' he said.
The agreement will enter into force once 55 countries representing at least 55 per cent of global emissions have formally joined it, a process initially expected to take until 2020.
But following a host of announcements at the signing event, observers now think it could happen later this year.
China, the world's top carbon emitter, announced it would ''finalise domestic procedures'' to ratify the agreement before the G20 summit in China in September. The United States, the world's second-largest emitter, reiterated its intention to ratify this year, as did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leaders of Mexico and Australia.
Maros Sefcovic, the energy chief for another top emitter, the 28-nation European Union, has also said the EU wants to be in the ''first wave'' of ratifying countries.
Congo's President Joseph Kabila, speaking on behalf of the world's 48 least-developed countries, said all were committed to ''to move in one irreversible direction to secure a safer climate''. Even though small emitters, he said they would take the steps required to ratify the agreement ''as soon as possible'', a reflection of the wide reach of the agreement.
According to the UN chief, the participation by so many countries and the attendance by so many world leaders leaves ''no doubt'' that the international community is determined to take climate action. He also welcomed the strong presence of the private sector and civil society, saying they are ''crucial to realising the great promise of the Paris Agreement.''
Adopted in Paris by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as (COP21) last December, the agreement's objective is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification.
''If all the countries that have signed today take the next step at the national level and join the agreement, the world will have met the requirement needed for the Paris Agreement to enter into force,'' Ban highlighted, congratulating the 15 Parties that have already deposited their instruments for ratification.
These Parties include Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Palau, Palestine, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Somalia and Tuvalu.
Speaking alongside the Secretary-General, French President François Hollande applauded all those who made it possible to reach the second stage of the process – the signing of the document.
Hollande, the first to sign, in recognition of his key role in achieving the December agreement, said he would ask parliament to ratify it by this summer.
''In Paris, there were also four initiatives that were launched: the International Solar Energy Alliance, the development plan for renewable energy, the innovation mission with [United States] President Obama, and finally the high-level coalition to set a price for fossil fuels and coal,'' Hollande told the press.
Meanwhile, in two weeks, the UN chief will co-host the Climate Action 2016 meeting in Washington DC, which is expected to bring together leaders and experts from many fields, including government, business, civil society and academia, ahead of the next COP in Morocco in November.
The Washington-based World Resources Institute said that at least 25 countries representing 45 per cent of global emissions had either joined the agreement on Friday or committed to joining it early.