Paris Agreement close to coming into force

5th October 2016

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The EU will ratify the Paris Agreement this week after the European Parliament and Council gave their backing. The decision pushes the global climate deal past the tipping point needed for it to become legally binding.

The European Parliament endorsed the agreement on Tuesday, with 610 MEPs voting in favour of ratification and 38 against, with 31 abstaining. The council adopted the decision later the same day.

The EU is expected to formally deposit its ratification with the UN on Friday. The Slovak minister for the environment and president of the council, László Sólymos, said: ‘Europe did everything possible to speed up its proceedings and breathe life into the Paris Agreement. The council's adoption of the decision in just a few hours illustrates our commitment to keeping our promises.’

The Paris Agreement enters into force 30 days after 55 countries accounting for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have submitted their ratification notices to the UN.

Earlier this week, India became the 62nd country to ratify the agreement, taking the percentage of GHGs covered to almost 52%. With the EU responsible for 12% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, its submission will take the agreement past the required tipping point.

The speed of ratification has been hailed as historic. The Kyoto protocol took eight years to enter into force after it was adopted in 1997.

Professor Nick Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, said: ‘This will provide an enormous boost in confidence for investors, particularly at a time when the world needs to ramp up its efforts to reduce GHGs in order to have a reasonable chance of meeting the goal of holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.’

A key reason why countries have moved so fast to ratify the agreement is that they now recognise the growth opportunities that will result from the transition to a low-carbon economy, he said.

Nick Mabey, chief executive of think tank E3G, said: ‘It is fitting that EU ratification will bring the Paris Agreement into force, as it has done more to build political support for truly global climate action.’

Only seven member states have so far completed the domestic ratification process: Hungary, France, Slovakia, Austria, Malta, Portugal and Germany. Prime minister Theresa May has pledged that the UK will ratify the agreement by the end of the year.

The EU is yet to agree its effort sharing regulation (ESR), which will establish binding annual greenhouse-gas emission targets for member states for the period 2013–20.

Lawyers at ClientEarth have warned in a legal position that the move by the EU to ratify the Paris Agreement ahead of a deal on the ESR could create legal uncertainty over whether member states or the European Commission is ultimately accountable for meeting the bloc’s obligations under the global climate deal.


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