BRUSSELS (Alliance News) – EU environment ministers agreed Friday to the bloc’s ratification of the Paris agreement on climate change, in a move that could allow the conditions for its entry into force to be met next week.

The deal, agreed in the French capital last December, is the first universal action plan aimed at keeping global temperature increases within two degrees of pre-industrial levels.

Although the EU prides itself on being a global leader on climate change action, the bloc has lagged in its ratification of the deal – a step that China and the US completed earlier this month.

The Paris deal formally takes effect 30 days after two conditions have been met: firstly, that it has been ratified by 55 countries; and secondly, that at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions is accounted for by those countries who have ratified the deal.

Sixty-one states, accounting for 47.79% of emissions, have ratified the deal. If countries such as India come on board in the coming days, as expected, the EU’s ratification could complete the second benchmark.

“Today the member states decided to make history together and bring closer the entry into force of the first ever universally binding climate change agreement,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

“Victory!” tweeted French Environment Minister Segolene Royal, whose country played a key role in brokering the Paris deal. Her Austrian counterpart Andrae Rupprechter wrote “Yes! United we are strong.”

The decision is “a reason for happiness, but not jubilation,” said Ann-Kathrin Schneider of Friends of the Earth Germany, noting that the world stands before “huge challenges” to meet the ambitions of the Paris deal.

The ministers agreed to an accelerated procedure, allowing the EU to ratify the deal before all 28 member states have given their individual blessing.

The decision must now be approved by the European Parliament – a move expected Tuesday, allowing the ratification to be concluded by next Friday.

Some member states – such has Poland, whose industry is heavily reliant on fossil fuels – had expressed concern over the approach.

Warsaw had sought Friday to secure a promise that future EU climate decisions would be taken unanimously, according to sources close to the talks. This would have effectively given each country a veto.

By 2030, the EU has promised to reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels. It is not yet clear, however, how this will be achieved in detail.

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