EU to ratify Paris climate deal
By Eszter Zalan
EU states have agreed to fast-track ratification of the Paris climate change agreement, making it possible for the deal to enter into force in November.
Environment ministers took the decision, which entails signing the treaty as a bloc, in Brussels on Friday (30 September), in what Miguel Arias Canete, the EU climate commissioner hailed as a "Deal! Historic day” on Twitter.
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The European Parliament is expected to vote on it next Tuesday, to be followed by formal ratification in the EU Council next week by so-called written procedure.
"It can be done very quickly, in one day," Canete said, mentioning 5 October as a potential deadline for the process.
Once the EU files its ratification notice with the UN, the international deal can enter into force.
"The decision of today increases the probability … that the deal will enter into force in November," Laszlo Solymos, Slovakia’s environment minister said, referring to a climate conference due in Marrakech, Morocco, that month.
In total 61 countries, accounting for almost 48 percent of global emissions have ratified the deal.
It is to into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, representing at least 55 percent of global emissions, have ratified it.
With the EU accounting for 12 percent of pollution, Friday’s decision unlocks the mechanism.
Devil in the details
The EU was a leading force in pushing for a climate agreement in Paris last year, but ratification by its 28 member states has dragged out.
"Our reputation was on the line," Canete told journalists.
So far, seven member states - Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Malta, and Portugal - have ratified the agreement.
Sources called Friday's EU decision unprecedented, but said the fast-track procedure - allowing the EU to ratify a deal en bloc without waiting for 28 individual ratifications - would not set a precedent.
"This does not preempt or prejudge the decision by national parliaments," Canete told journalists after the meeting.
EU leaders had agreed on the fast-track procedure at a summit two weeks ago.
But the thorny question of how to divide emission cuts among member states still remains to be answered.
Poland has been the loudest opponent of the deal in an effort to protect its coal industry, but ministers have separated ratification from "effort sharing".
The commission in July proposed a model on how to divide pollution-cuts between member states. But they, and the European Parliament, have yet to agree on it, in a process that could last years.
"We will implement Paris on the basis of our own conditions,” Jan Szyszko, the Polish minister said after the meeting. Poland's demands include protection of its coal sector, which employs 170,000 people, and the option to offset CO2 cuts with forest plantations.
"Even if I would receive assurances from Canete, they wouldn’t be written, it would be a gentleman’s agreement. We still have a lot of work to do,” Szyszko said.
"Coal will remain a guarantee of Polish energy independence for decades to come," he said.