The swift ratification of the Paris Agreement by the USA – and especially by China – has caught the EU off guard and risks excluding the bloc from a key decision-making body that will be instituted at the next Conference of the Parties in Marrakesh (COP22), diplomats told EURACTIV.
The EU was until now seen – and often decried at home – for being the undisputed leader in the global push to address climate change.
But European diplomats today agree there is a real risk that the bloc will be excluded from decision-making related to the implementation of the agreement, once it comes into force.
This would be a major humiliation that the vast majority of EU countries want to avoid.
CMA without the EU?
In a stunt never attempted before, EU countries will make efforts to speed up the ratification of the Paris deal through national parliaments by 7 October.
EU ambassadors met on Wednesday (21 September) to discuss the embarrassing situation the EU got itself into and forge the way forward.
The stakes are higher than they seem. Once the Paris deal enters into force, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, known as the CMA, will make decisions under the agreement.
The CMA will formally take office at the COP22 in Marrakesh, on 7-18 November. Put simply, it will be the group responsible for supervising the Paris deal. But if EU countries don’t ratify the Paris Agreement on time, it might well be founded without a European representative in it.
In short, this means that countries which have ratified – including China and the US – would be making decisions on implementing the Paris Agreement that have a direct impact on Europe, without the bloc being represented.
China ratification took EU by surprise
As one senior EU diplomat explained, it was the ratification of the Paris deal by China that took Europe by surprise.
The Paris deal on slashing greenhouse gas emissions, which has the backing of nearly 200 countries, takes effect once at least 55 nations making up at least 55% of global carbon dioxide emissions ratify it.
By Wednesday the total number of ratifications had reached 60, representing more than 47.5% of emissions. Those that have ratified include China and the United States, the world’s two biggest carbon dioxide emitters.
The US has strived to ratify the Paris Agreement while Barack Obama was still in office, avoiding the risk that Donald Trump, who has denied the man-made causes of climate change, comes to the Oval office.
But more surprisingly for the EU, China, a “not-so-green” country, also ratified the Paris deal.
This has reportedly created panic in some EU capitals, raising fears that the Paris deal could enter into force without the EU.
With Japan and India coming suit soon, the EU finds itself trapped, unless it succeeds a stunt ratification by 7 October, one month before the COP 22 in Marrakesh.
Only four countries have ratified so far: France, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia.
Plenary vote on 4 October
The European Parliament has to ratify the Paris deal too, something that should happen without problem on 4 October.
But some European capitals are not happy that ratification at EU level will come ahead of ratification by the national parliaments. It is expected that a Statement by the Council and the Commission would be adopted, stressing that the European Parliament vote is “sui generis” and will not constitute a precedent for future EU-decision-making..
The “usual suspect” who could derail the ratification is Poland, which wants guarantees on how the EU will share out the burden of delivering on the Paris accord before committing to ratify it.
EU unable to keep its promises?
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last week described the EU’s slow ratification of the climate deal as “ridiculous” and damaging to the bloc’s credibility.
Although the issues are unrelated, the EU increasingly appears unable to ratify the international agreements it has concluded.
This is the case of the EU-Ukraine association agreement, the ratification of which has been upset by a referendum in the Netherlands, and of CETA, the trade deal with Canada.