EU Divisions Deepen Over Ratification Of Paris Agreement

  • Date: 08/09/16
  • Aline Robert, EurActiv France

The inability of the EU’s member states to agree on an effort-sharing deal could delay the ratification of the Paris Agreement until late 2017. This would see the climate deal enter into force without the world’s biggest economic bloc.

For Scottish Conservative MEP Ian Duncan, the rapporteur on carbon market reform, enough is enough. “Climate action is not just about nice words and handshakes,” he said.

Long seen as the global leader on questions of climate change, the European Union was leapfrogged by the United States and China last Friday (2 September), with both big polluters ratifying the Paris Agreement together. It may still be some time before the EU is in a position to do the same.

“Commissioner Šefčovič said he was working with China and the United States on the application of the Paris Agreement. But this is not serious. The EU is not keeping its own house in order. There is now a gulf between rhetoric and reality,” said Duncan.

The passionate speeches of the COP21, during which the EU boasted of having formed a High Ambition Coalition with the small island states and the US have been followed by a complete inability to come to any kind of agreement between member states.

The disappointment felt by many of the EU’s partners was expressed by Tony de Brum, the climate ambassador of the Marshall Islands, on Twitter.

It is now very possible that the Paris Agreement could enter into force without the ratification of the EU, which would be a major political defeat for the bloc. For the deal to apply, it must be ratified by at least 55% of signatory countries representing 55% of global CO2 emissions.

With ratification already completed by 28 countries representing 40% of emissions, this hurdle is well within sight.

If the situation became urgent, the EU could always bypass the ratification process at national level and declare itself competent to take the decision alone. While this emergency trump card may be tempting to the European executive, the political backlash from certain member states would be severe.

Ratification of the deal at EU level will in all likelihood be completed soon: the European Parliament will give its opinion in a consultative vote in mid-September, followed by the European Council in October. But this principle agreement alone is not enough.

National obstacles

The main obstacle to an EU effort sharing decision is Poland, which is still trying to negotiate subsidies for its coal-fired power stations in exchange for ratification. “But nobody wants to support the coal industry today. This is absurd,” said Duncan.

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