Reuters International

European Union President Donald Tusk addresses the 71st United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri


By Alissa de Carbonnel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union states agreed on Friday on a fast-track, joint ratification of the Paris accord to combat climate change, securing the deal enough backing to enter into force this year and guide a radical shift of the world economy away from fossil fuels.

The agreement by environment ministers from all 28 member states is a rare political breakthrough for the EU at a time of discord over the migration crisis and uncertainty after Britain's vote to leave the bloc.

"All member states greenlight early EU ratification of Paris Agreement: What some believed impossible is now real," tweeted European Council President Donald Tusk, whose home country Poland had been the main state resisting such a swift accord.

The decision by the EU, which accounts for about 12 percent of global emissions, will have to be approved by the European Parliament next week. And that in turn has to be approved by ministers.

To take effect, the Paris Agreement needs formal ratification by 55 countries that account for 55 percent of global emissions. Once it reaches that threshold, it will enter into force after 30 days.

Cementing the accord before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8 would make it harder to unravel if Republican Donald Trump, who has opposed it, wins that vote.

So far, 61 nations representing 47.8 percent of emissions have ratified, led by China and the United States. India, with 4 percent, is set to ratify on Sunday and the EU ratification would push it over the line.


Poland sought concessions for its coal-fired economy ahead of Friday's special gathering, so EU environment ministers found a way to break with normal procedure and lock collectively into the Paris accord.

"Polish interests have been secured and agreement has been reached," said Pavel Mucha, a spokesman for Poland's Environment Ministry. He did not give details.

When EU regulators unveiled plans in July for spreading the burden of the bloc's climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels, Poland objected to its target.

The Paris agreement seeks to keep average temperature rises "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times to tackle global warming. It will require a drastic shift from fossil fuels this century as part of efforts to limit heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

The EU shortcut, dubbed "institutional creativity" by France's minister, ultimately hangs on trust that each of the 28 will follow through with their own ratifications. If they do not, those who have gone ahead could be stuck with fulfilling the promised emissions cuts of the bloc as a whole.

Germany, Hungary, France, Austria and Slovakia have individually ratified the Paris pact within the EU.

(Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko in Warsaw and Alister Doyle in Oslo; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)


 Reuters International