MEPs vote to ratify Paris Agreement

Ban Ki-moon and Ségolène Royal were present for the European Parliament's ratification of the Paris Agreement. [European Parliament]

The European Parliament today (4 October) voted to ratify the Paris Agreement, ensuring it will come into force before this year’s COP 22 in Marrakesh. EURACTIV France reports.

Today’s vote in Strasbourg, in the presence of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the French Minister for Ecology Ségolène Royal, brought the deal over the threshold of 55 parties accounting for 55% of global emissions needed for it to enter into force.

The ratification passed by an overwhelming majority of 610 votes to 38, with 31 abstentions.

Conceived by the Parliament as a way to bypass certain uncooperative member states, such as Poland and Italy, the result of the vote was never in doubt. But it has the symbolic importance of bringing the deal struck in Paris last December into effect before the next UN climate conference begins.

Before the vote, 62 countries representing 52% of global CO2 emissions had ratified the Agreement.

Now the seven EU member states that have already ratified the deal at national level will be able to officially add their signatures on Friday (7 October), taking the total emissions covered over the 55% threshold.

The Agreement will come into force 30 days later, on 7 November, in time for the beginning of the COP 22 in Marrakesh. This conference will focus on practical solutions to climate change.

The EU: A former leader on climate change

“This ratification is good news, but now we will have to wait and see how the national parliaments apply it,” said Giovanni La Via (EPP group), the president of the European Parliament’s environment committee. It is not yet clear how the effort will be shared between the 28 EU member states.

“The European effort is insufficient,” said Die Linke’s Gabi Zimmer, president of the GUE/NGL group, who is particularly critical of the low carbon price, which undermines the EU’s quota system.

A small minority of lawmakers, all from the far right, voted against the international agreement, including 20 from the EFDD group, led by Nigel Farage.

Extreme right against the climate?

The French National Front’s ENF group split in two for the occasion: the French members abstained and the others voted against ratification. Dutch MEP Marcel de Graaf (Party for Freedom) justified his vote as an act of defence for national sovereignty. The Parliament’s ratification will allow the EU to impose the Paris Agreement on member states without the approval of national parliaments.

“This is not the first time that you have missed an appointment with history,” de Graaf told Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The bypassing of national parliaments raises interesting questions. The fact that the EU will ratify the deal with the support of only seven member states is a piece of light-footed legal work, but it also sets a precedent that could prove problematic for future international treaties.

For the S&D’s Gilles Pargneaux (Parti socialiste), the behaviour of the National Front MEPs, who were the only ones not to stand to welcome the UN Secretary-General, was unacceptable. “It is always the same people, those who are against any international organisation, they are either fascists or Nazis,” he said.

And Dieselgate?

Members of the committee of inquiry into the Volkswagen emissions scandal criticised Royal’s “double game” on climate change. “The minister has shown her disregard for the European Parliament and democracy in general: she comes to Strasbourg only when she gets to choose what we discuss,” said Karima Delli, a French Green MEP.

ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt made the same criticism, joking that “now that she knows the way, she can come to the European Parliament’s committee of inquiry” on Dieselgate.

Carmaker Renault is under investigation by the French parliament over its CO2 emissions, but the government appears to want to protect its national champion. At a press conference after the vote, Royal promised to attend the committee of inquiry in October.

Oxfam’s Deputy Director for Advocacy and Campaigns, Natalia Alonso, said, “It is welcome news that the European Union is speeding up the ratification of the Paris climate agreement. 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. This is a credibility test for the commitment of governments to protect people and the planet from global warming.

“The Paris agreement sets the goal to limit global warming to less than 1.5° Celsius. But the EU’s current commitments don’t even limit the temperature increase below 2°, let alone 1.5°."


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