Parliament gave its consent to the ratification of the Paris climate agreement today in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and COP21 President Ségolène Royal after EU ministers approved it on 30 September. The EU ratification will trigger the entry into force of the first-ever universal, legally-binding global climate deal. Ahead of the Council vote, we discussed the agreement with Italian EPP member Giovanni La Via, chair of the environment committee.
About the Paris agreement
The Paris agreement sets out a global action plan to fight climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. It was agreed by 195 countries at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015. The agreement will enter into force on the 30th day after the date on which it has been ratified by 55 countries that account for at least 55% of global emissions.
The first condition has already been met. Parliament's consent vote means the second criterion has been fullfilled, meaning the agreement can enter into force.
Interview with Giovanni La Via
The following interview was originally published on 29 September ahead of the Extraordinary Environment Council on 30 September:
For decades we have prided ourselves on our environmental protection but now we seem to be playing catch-up with the US and China. How did this happen? What is Parliament doing about it?
It happened because we wasted a lot of time. After the UN General Assembly and New York Climate Week, we now have 60 countries, representing 47.7% of total greenhouse gas emissions, who have ratified the Paris agreement.
We are working to secure a swift entry into force of the agreement. The first step in Parliament is a vote by the environment committee followed by a vote during the plenary session on 3-6 October for the final confirmation.
A timely EU ratification decision would send a strong signal and highlight the leadership of the EU and its member states and their continuing efforts to address climate change at an international level. We cannot miss this opportunity.
What are the main points of the agreement? What will they mean in practical terms for people and companies in Europe?
It is clear that the main goal of the Paris agreement is to maintain the increase of the temperature during the current century well below two degrees.
What does it mean? That we have to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, we are now going to do a lot of legislative work on climate policy. We are working on efforts sharing, which concerns reducing emissions in sectors not part of the emissions trading system. We have to decide how we contribute to this goal and divide up the efforts between the different 28 member states.
We also have to work on energy efficiency and renewable energy in order to reduce the production of greenhouse and to store CO2 in soil or somewhere else without putting our competitiveness at risk.
The next climate change conference - COP22 - takes place in Marrakesh on 7-18 November. What will happen there? Could this prove to be an even tougher challenge?
In Marrakesh we will start the process of implementing the policies after Paris. We plan to make significant progress on key elements of the agreement, including an enhanced transparency framework, details of the global stocktake, further guidance on nationally determined contributions and a mechanism to facilitate implementation and promote compliance.
The European Union has done its homework: we have published new proposals and put some ideas into practice. The first steps in that direction are initiatives such as effort sharing, waste reform, the circular economy package, the emissions trading system and LULUCF, a proposal on land use, land use change and forestry.
We now need global efforts at an international level.
Giovanni La Via was the chair of the Parliament delegation at the COP21 conference in Paris last year.