The European Union's delay in ratifying the Paris Agreement is calling its ability to lead the fight against climate change into question. Effective implementation can reverse this, DW's Max Hofmann writes.
At the end of the 2015 climate talks in Paris, participants generally agreed that problems in implementing the historic agreement would come from the United States and China. The world's largest carbon producers had signed on to the accord, though it remained to be seen if they would really ratify it. India was also a wild card.
Now, all three are on board; India just needs to sign. One of the two conditions necessary for the agreement to come into force - that at least 55 countries sign - has been fulfilled, and the other is about to be: The signatories must be responsible for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gases. It appears that the European Union was caught off guard by the lightning-quick pace (by diplomatic standards, that is) at which ratification took place. Far from being at the forefront of climate change as the European Union purports to be, the EU was suddenly playing catch up.
On Friday, EU environment ministers met to ratify the deal. However, the agreement will likely not come into force in time for the November climate change conference in Marrakesh. For the European Union, which promotes itself as a leader on climate change, the delay leaves behind an awkward aftertaste.
It is unlikely that history will recall the European Union's tardiness in ratifying the agreement. The European Union was late but not too late. Nonetheless, it was late. China was charging ahead while EU members were likely just getting started on the unavoidable but lengthy process. Poland, for example, would have preferred to stall even longer to protect its coal industry. The European Union is losing its leading role on the technological side, too. Other countries are progressing on developing green energy infrastructure.
The European Union must show that it is a global leader on climate change. Ratifying the Paris Agreement is one thing, but implementing it is another. Now begins the difficult period of bringing concrete and effective measures into force at both the national and EU levels to put the brakes on the largest climate offenders. Coal, electricity, transport, agriculture - nothing is sacred. Speed may not be the European Union's strength, but the EU can win points by effectively implementing the agreed measures. If it does so, it could retain its credibility on climate change.
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