Paris Climate Accord Will Take Effect Before Next US President Takes Office

Patrick Goodenough | October 4, 2016 | 7:50pm EDT
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The European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg on Tuesday, October 5, 2016, voted by 610-38 in favour of the E.U. ratifying the Paris climate accord. (Photo: European Union/EP)

( – A vote by the European Parliament on Tuesday means that the most ambitious climate change agreement in history will become a reality next month – probably the week of the U.S. election – and even should Donald Trump win and make good on a pledge to withdraw the U.S., he will not be able to do so during a first term.

Tuesday’s vote ticks the last box required for the Paris climate treaty to enter into force; Already more than the requisite 55 countries had ratified the deal, and now a second condition – ratification by countries together accountable for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – has also been met.

Seven individual E.U. member states (France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Malta and Portugal) had already ratified the agreement, but the E.U. together is held accountable for 12 percent of the emissions of the gases blamed for global warming, and its ratification will push the total, currently at 51.9 percent, well beyond the 55 percent threshold.

An E.U. statement hailed the vote in favor of “the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal.”

“Our vote paves the way to ensure that the agreement meets the necessary threshold,” said European Parliament president Martin Schulz. “The entry into force of the Paris agreement less than one year after its signature is a massive achievement, given that it took eight years for the Kyoto Protocol”  to enter into force after its adoption in 1997.

Before the vote in Strasbourg, U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon urged the lawmakers to act “in the name of humanity and for the sake of future generations.”

The vote passed by 610-38.

The decision will now be endorsed by E.U. leaders and heads of government (“the European Council”) and the E.U.’s instrument of ratification submitted to the United Nations, a step scheduled to take place on Friday this week.

Thirty days later, the agreement struck in Paris late last year will be in force. The accord aims to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in a bid to stave off what advocates say could be a catastrophic impact on the planet.

In a speech in Brussels earlier Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry noted the looming European Parliament vote and described crossing the required threshold for the Paris accord “a truly historic moment.”

President Obama joined the Paris agreement early last month – by executive order, since the administration argued that it does not constitute a treaty requiring Senate advice and consent.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said earlier this year he would withdraw from the Paris accord if he becomes president. But with the faster-than-expected entry into force, a Trump administration would be stuck with the agreement through a first term.

The agreement’s article 28 states that no party may apply to withdraw within the first three years of its entry into force, and further, that written notice of withdrawal will only take effect 12 months later.

A Pew poll released this week finds that only 33 percent of Americans believe that climate scientists “understand very well” whether climate change is occurring; 28 percent believe climate scientists “understand very well” the causes of climate change; and 19 percent believe climate scientists “understand very well” the best ways to address climate change.

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