STRASBOURG, France (4th UPDATE) – The landmark Paris climate pact is poised to enter into force globally after the European Parliament joined the world's top polluters in endorsing the deal to slow the planet's dangerous temperature rise.
With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon watching the vote on Tuesday, October 4, the parliament overwhelmingly approved the EU's fast-track ratification of the deal sealed in Paris last December.
That puts the European Union on track to hand over its ratification to the United Nations on Friday, which would then take the international community above the threshold needed for implementation within one month.
"I'm extremely honoured to be able to witness this historic moment," Ban said at the European Parliament building following the vote that passed by 610 to 38, with 31 abstentions.
"I look forward to the Paris agreement entering into force as soon as possible, even in just a few days time."
The Paris accord requires all countries to devise plans to achieve the goal of keeping the rise in temperatures within two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and strive for 1.5 C (2.7 F) if possible.
The European Parliament, the bloc's only elected body, backed a decision by EU environment ministers last Friday to fast-track approval of the deal, despite only seven out of 28 EU countries having themselves ratified it.
Fears that China and the United States, the world's two biggest polluters, were leaving Europe behind on ratifying last year's historic deal pushed them into rushing through the ratification.
To come into force the accord needs ratification from 55 countries, which must together account for at least 55% of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions, which are responsible for climate change.
With a decision in the last few days by India, the third biggest emitter, a total of 62 countries have ratified the agreement to commit to take action to stem the planet's rising temperatures.
They all account for 52% of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions, and EU ratification will bring it over 55% threshold by including the seven EU countries who have already approved it.
The seven EU countries – Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia – account for some 5% of global emissions.
The entire bloc accounts for 12% of global emissions.
"It's a big historic moment," said Segolene Royal, the French environment minister Segolene Royal, who hosted the COP21 Paris climate talks.
She added that representatives from France and the six other EU countries will travel to New York on Friday to hand over the ratification documents, which will allow for the deal to enter force 30 days later.
In normal times, for such major international agreements, the EU and its 28 member states must deposit their ratification documents simultaneously under sometimes time-consuming procedures.
However, the member states overcame differences to reach a political agreement last week to bypass the usual process.
Europe has prided itself on taking a global lead on climate change issues but has watched with alarm as the rest of the world has left it behind.
"Europe today is demonstrating it's capable of great things when it puts its energy and forces together," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said in Strasbourg at a time when the EU is buffeted by crises from migration to Brexit.
Both Oxfam and conservation group WWF gave a cautious welcome, warning all member states they face a "credibility test" or "enforcement test" in sticking to the deal.
During a White House event on Monday to highlight his campaign to battle climate change, US President Barack Obama warned: "We are really in a race against time." – Rappler.com