STRASBOURG, France – The European Union ratified the international Paris agreement on climate change late Tuesday, fulfilling the second and final condition for the accord to go into force later this year.
The agreement, struck in the French capital in December, is aimed at keeping global temperature increases to within 2 degrees of preindustrial levels.
It enters into force after two conditions have been met: firstly, that it has been ratified by at least 55 countries; and secondly, that those countries account for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
With 62 states already having ratified the deal, the first hurdle was already cleared. The EU’s ratification will now remove the second, triggering a 30-day countdown to the deal’s entry into force.
“United Europe did everything possible to speed up its proceedings and breathe life into the Paris Agreement,” said Laszlp Solymos, the environment minister for Slovakia, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
“We can all be collectively proud of this achievement,” he said.
Earlier Tuesday, EU lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bloc’s ratification of the Paris deal – by 610 votes to 38, with 31 abstentions – under an accelerated procedure allowing Brussels to press ahead before all member states have approved the step.
“Today the EU turned climate ambition into climate action,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
The formal documentation will be submitted to the United Nations in New York on Friday, the Slovakian EU presidency said, triggering the 30-day countdown.
Observers warned that speedy implementation is now key. The deal’s pledges are binding from 2020.
“The EU and its member states have now to make sure that all their policies respect the terms and the spirit of the Paris agreement,” said Natalia Alonso of the anti-poverty group Oxfam.
The climate agreement has been pushed ahead by a sense of urgency. At a technical level, clinching the thresholds for its entry into force before Oct. 7 would allow it to take effect by the next U.N. summit on climate change, to take place in Morocco.
Countries that have formally joined the agreement also get a greater say in how it is implemented. While the deal focuses on a commitment to curb global temperature rises, the ways to achieve that are left largely open, pushing some difficult negotiations down the road.
Questions also remain about whether the countries’ individual plans to curb emissions will keep global temperatures below the agreed-upon sub-2-degree limit. Scientists have warned that ambitions should be ramped up over the coming years.