EU Vote Could Put Paris Climate Pact Into Force Next Month

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By Stephen Gardner

Oct. 4 — The European Parliament Oct. 4 voted overwhelmingly to let the European Union deposit its instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement with the United Nations, enabling the climate change pact to enter into force as early as next month.

The EU ratification documents, which are expected to be deposited Oct. 7 at UN headquarters in New York, would initially cover only the greenhouse gas emissions of member countries that have so far completed national-level ratification, rather than the bloc’s emissions as a whole.

But seven EU countries representing 4.57 percent of global emissions have individually ratified the Paris Agreement, and that is enough to take the world’s first international pact to fight climate change over its threshold of acceptance: ratification by at least 55 countries covering at least 55 percent of global emissions.

If the EU ratification is deposited at UN headquarters Oct. 7, the Paris Agreement would kick in Nov. 7 after a 30-day period and enable the UN to start implementing the deal to ensure that global warming stays “well below” a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) increase above pre-industrial temperature levels, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

And Nov. 7 marks the start of 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Marrakech, Morocco—the successor to last December's historic COP 21 Paris summit.

‘Tremendous Momentum.’

Without the EU, 62 countries representing 51.89 percent of emissions had already ratified the agreement as of Oct. 4, the UN said.

Of the 28 EU members, Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia had completed their national ratifications. Those countries account for 4.57 percent of global carbon emissions; the EU as a bloc is responsible for about 12 percent of global emissions.

The European Parliament, sitting in Strasbourg, France, Oct. 4, approved the ratification with 610 votes in favor, 38 against and 31 abstentions. EU member country environment ministers had approved the ratification Sept. 30.

Speaking shortly before the European Parliament vote, Ban said the EU move to ratify the Paris Agreement was part of the “tremendous momentum” that would see the deal enter into force less than a year after it was crafted by nearly 200 nations meeting in the French capital.

Major emitters China, India and the U.S. already have ratified or otherwise formally accepted the Paris Agreement.

To complete the EU-level ratification process, the Council of the European Union, which represents EU country governments, as a formality must rubber-stamp the European Parliament's approval, before dispatching the EU ratification notification to New York.

Climate Finance

Although the emissions of the EU as a whole will not yet be counted for the purposes of ratification, the EU-level sign-off will mean that the bloc can act as a party to the Paris Agreement at COP 22 in Marrakech.

France's Environment Minister Ségolène Royal, also speaking in Strasbourg, said parties to the Paris Agreement should work in particular on climate finance and must “move from pledge to action” in terms of finding $100 billion a year starting in 2020, which wealthy countries have promised to help poorer nations meet climate targets.

Miguel Arias Canete, the European Commission's climate action and energy commissioner, said: “We have the political will to support climate finance to developing countries,” and nations should understand the “green economy is not an economy of unemployment, it is an economy of growth and jobs.”

EU Work Ahead

The EU also must complete its internal procedures for distributing emissions reductions among member countries and among economic sectors. Overall, the EU pledged as part of the Paris Agreement to reduce its emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990.

The main EU policies that must be completed for the post-2020 period are reforming the bloc's emissions trading system, sharing among countries of emissions reductions from non-ETS sectors, and measuring renewables and energy efficiency.

Canete said the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, will publish by December proposals on renewables, energy efficiency and streamlining of energy markets. The commission triggered talks on the ETS and non-ETS sectors by publishing proposals in July 2015 and July 2016, respectively.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

For More Information

The European Parliament resolution approving EU-level ratification of the Paris Agreement is available at http://src.bna.com/i79 .

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