The UK is to begin procedures to enable ratification of the Paris Agreement by the end of the year, the Prime Minister has announced.

Almost 200 countries signed up to the landmark climate change treaty in December last year but to date only 29 have ratified the accord which compels countries to cut emissions to keep the global average rise in temperature to below 2oC.

In her maiden speech to the UN General Assembly last night (Tuesday), Theresa May said the UK continues to “play our part in the international effort against climate change”.

She added: “And in a demonstration of our commitment to the agreement reached in Paris, the UK will start its domestic procedures to enable ratification of the Paris agreement, and complete these before the end of the year.”

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “The Government is determined to tackle climate change to help create a safer and more prosperous future for us all. That is why we are now starting the process of ratifying the landmark climate deal signed in Paris.

“The UK played a major role when the world came together last year and we will continue to play our part in the transition to a global low carbon economy as we continue to provide secure, affordable and clean energy at home”.

Greenpeace executive director, John Sauven, said: “This signal is a welcome moment of clarity amidst the all-pervading Brexit uncertainty, but it could have come with a much speedier timetable. Some of the world’s major economies have already ratified the Paris deal. So why is the UK government taking so long?”

Barry Gardiner, shadow energy and climate change secretary, told the Guardian: “The UK played a significant role in the world reaching a global climate deal in Paris. As other major economies surge forward on climate action, it is important that the UK does not get left behind.”

“I’m glad that Theresa May has - at last - recognised the need for the UK to remain a responsible global player on this crucial issue by setting a firm deadline to ratify the Paris climate agreement by the end of this year.”