EU Nations Aim for Deal on Fast Approval of Paris Agreement

  • Ambassadors from EU member states discussed compromise
  • Draft to be presented to EU ministers for decision Sept. 30

Representatives of European Union member states laid the groundwork for a political deal later this week on a fast-track ratification by the 28-nation bloc of the Paris climate agreement, a step that could enable the most sweeping accord to combat global warming to come into force.

Slovakia, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU in the second half of this year, said on Wednesday that it is deploying its “utmost efforts” for the ministers to agree on “a quick and consensual ratification” on Sept. 30. The presidency aims for the bloc to finalize the union-level approval by Oct. 7, a date that matters because the climate deal will be enacted 30 days after its ratification requirements have been met.

If the approval criteria -- ratification by at least 55 parties accounting for 55 percent of global emissions -- are reached at the beginning of next month, the first meeting of the parties to the agreement could take place during the next annual United Nations climate conference, scheduled to start in Morocco on Nov. 7. So far 61 parties responsible for almost 48 percent of pollution have approved the accord. The ratification by the EU, which accounts for around 12 percent of pollution, could meet the 55 percent threshold.

“The European Union and its member states should be sitting at the table when the agreement enters into force,” the Slovak presidency said in reply to questions by Bloomberg News.

Climate Change

The EU, which wants to lead the global fight against climate change, has come under increasing pressure to formally join the deal after U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping ratified it on Sept. 3. India plans to approve the agreement on Oct. 2.

Ambassadors representing EU countries discussed this morning in Brussels a draft joint statement with the European Commission and a decision that will enable the accelerated approval of the Paris deal. It would allow the EU to join the global accord before many member states finalize their domestic procedures, a route about which some member states had legal and political concerns.

The Slovak presidency said after the meeting that it will seek to address “as many concerns as possible” in the final version of the draft, which will be presented to environment ministers at their extraordinary gathering on Friday.

The statement will most likely highlight that the fast-track approval is a unique situation and cannot be interpreted as a precedent for any future ratifications, according to two EU diplomats with knowledge of the matter. It would probably underline the essential role of the national parliaments in the ratification process and stresses that the union-level approval will not affect the division of competences between the EU and member states, according to the EU diplomats.

Emission Cuts

European governments and the commission also plan to recall the October 2014 deal on the 2030 emissions target, which states that national leaders will continue to give strategic orientation on issues including burden-sharing of emission cuts among member states, the diplomats said.
Poland, which relies on coal for about 90 percent of its electricity production, signaled earlier this month that it will seek a wording that would guarantee the east European country can continue using the most polluting fossil fuel as the main source of energy. Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyszko said on Sept. 23 that while his country will put all its effort into fast domestic ratification, its consent to a fast-track union-level approval can occur only if Poland’s national interests are secured.

A decision on the accelerated EU approval requires unanimity from member states and endorsement from the European Parliament, which is scheduled to vote on it during the Oct. 3-6 plenary session in Strasbourg, France. EU energy union chief Maros Sefcovic said on Sept. 26 that he hoped member states will reach a deal this week.

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