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EU Paris ratification: world leaders' response to the US elections?

The European Union agreed to a fast-track deal for the Paris climate accord on Friday. The deal, which pushes the agreement above the ratification threshold, means the commitments will enter into law before the next US president is elected.

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    French President Francois Hollande (r.), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (2nd r.), United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres (l.), and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon celebrate after the United Nations conference on climate change, in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on Dec. 12, 2015.
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How important is ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change? Too important to delay until after the US election in November, European Union leaders suggest.

The EU agreed on Friday to fast-track the ratification process. The EU, which is responsible for about 12 percent of global emissions, has committed to reducing its emissions to at least 40 percent below its 1990 levels by 2030.

The decision needs to be approved by the European Parliament next week. Environmental ministers are then charged with bringing their respective countries onboard by ratifying the accord domestically. If they don’t, those states that have already ratified may find themselves stuck with the burden of meeting the entirety of the EU’s emissions reduction goal.

Why risk the uncertain fast-track agreement, which France’s minister has described as “institutional creativity”? It’s part of an effort to push the Paris Agreement into force by the end of this year, making it harder for Donald Trump to renege on the accord if he becomes president. Mr. Trump has said he would cancel the deal.

“The Obama administration clearly would like to see this done before they leave office,” Alden Meyer, a director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Associated Press. “That doesn’t guarantee that the next president will fully implement Paris, but it would take at least four years for the US to formally withdraw.”

The Paris Agreement requires 55 countries, representing 55 percent of global emissions, to ratify the deal. It will go into force 30 days after passing that threshold. The United States and China, the two largest global emitters, have already signed on. A further 59 nations have also ratified, totaling 47.8 percent of emissions.

The addition of the EU means that the agreement could be ratified during the next UN climate change conference in Morocco, which begins on November 7. It would therefore become law before the next US president takes office.

Concerns about the effect of a Trump presidency on the climate accord brought EU members together in what Reuters described as a “rare sign of political unity.” The bloc has struggled lately to deal with the migrant crisis and the fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

“What some believed impossible is now real,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted out after all 28 members of the EU had agreed to the fast-track deal. 

Mr. Tusk’s native Poland had been one of the holdouts: The country objected to its Paris target, which it believed would have a significant impact on Poland’s coal-fired economy.

Germany, Hungary, France, Austria, and Slovakia have individually ratified the Paris Agreement.

The fast-track agreement is another sign that the world is watching the US elections closely. The international community is particularly concerned about the global uncertainty that may ensue if Trump wins, as The Christian Science Monitor reported.

“With Trump there is just totally a randomness factor that is hard to prepare for. It seems so incalculable,” Thorsten Benner, the head of the Global Public Policy Institute, a Berlin think tank, told The Christian Science Monitor’s Peter Ford earlier this week.

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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