EU plans to fast-track ratification of Paris Agreement

At the Bratislava Summit of the European Union, leaders have decided in an informal meeting to fast-track ratification of the Paris Agreement, Bloomberg reported. The procedure is enabled by the fact that the European Union is a Party to the UNFCCC in its own right.

According to the working schedule, the environmental ministers of the EU member states will come together to an extraordinary meeting on Sept. 30. In case of unanimous tacit or explicit consent by the ministers, the European Parliament could approve the ratification at the next plenary session on Oct. 3-6 in Strasbourg. If the plan succeeds , it would likely trigger the entry into force of the Paris Agreement at the next COP22 in Morocco.

The mayority of EU environmental ministers have showed support for an early ratification, asking for the Parliament to give its consent. Poland, which was unwilling to go along with the proposal until recently, announced it would support the procedure providing its investment in coal-based power plants are guaranteed, Bloomberg reported.

So far, it was common practice for EU and member states’ institution to transmit the required instruments of ratification to the respective treaty secretariats when both had ratified the agreement. In this way, unity was demonstrated and possible legal risks avoided due to the different jurisdictions of the EU and the member states. However, this is usually a time-consuming process as the national proceedings are very differentiated. So far, only France and Hungary have concluded their national ratification processes, and Germany is expected to follow this week.

Due to the slow standard process, the EU is facing an increasing pressure. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stressed this point in his recent State of the Union speech, urging the EU countries  to ratify the Paris Agreement without delay. “Slow delivery on promises made is a phenomenon that more and more risks undermining the Union’s credibility. Take the Paris agreement. We Europeans are the world leaders on climate action. It was Europe that brokered the first-ever legally binding, global climate deal. It was Europe that built the coalition of ambition that made agreement in Paris possible. But Europe is now struggling to show the way and be amongst the first to ratify our agreement”, Junker said.

EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete called it a “nightmare scenario” if the Paris Agreement would enter into force without the European Union. China and the US have already ratified the deal. According to Reuters, UNFCCC officials expect at least 20 countries to join the climate deal on Sept. 21, including Brazil and Mexico.

The Paris Agreement enters into force on the thirtieth day after the double threshold (55 Parties responsible for at least 55% of global emissions) is reached. As of Sept. 15, according to UNFCCC, 28 states, accounting for around 39% of global emissions, had ratified the deal. The European Union is collectively responsible for about 12% of global emissions, according to official UN data. Therefore, a fast-tracked ratification could make the first session of the Parties to the Paris Agreement taking place simultaneously to the upcoming Conference of the Parties in Marrakesh this November.

As the first meeting of the Parties to the Agreement was foreseen much later,an early entry into force could cause some difficulties. The meeting of the Parties has the oversight and authority on all matters relating to the agreement. Many procedures and provisions of the Paris Agreement are not yet worked out in detail. Countries who are not yet Parties, could therefore only observe the discussions, without having the voting right. According to an information note of the UNFCCC, a possible solution would be to convene the first meeting and then suspend it until next year. This would allow the preparatory bodies to continue their work without excluding some UNFCCC Parties from the process.


(Image: European Parliament Plenary session in Brussels, January 28, 2015. Photo credit: European Parliament/Flickr)