165 Leaders Gather in NYC to Sign Controversial COP21 Deal

The signing, held on Earth Day, comes four months after the Paris climate deal was agreed in principle at COP21 summit and marks the first step towards binding countries to the promises they made to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"We are breaking records in this Chamber—and that is good news," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in opening remarks Friday. "But records are also being broken outside; record global temperatures. Record ice loss. Record carbon levels in the atmosphere. We are in a race against time."

The U.N. expects some 60 heads of state at the signing ceremony. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, French President Francois Hollande and Canada's Justin Trudeau joined John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, for the event, the largest single-day signing of an international agreement.

Hollywood actor and environmental activist Leonardo di Caprio also addressed the audience, warning that "our planet will not be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong." "We can congratulate each other today," he said, "but it will mean absolutely nothing if you return to your countries and don't take action to implement the deal."

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