Maroš Šefčovič travels to New York to ratify COP21 deal
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres says she expects last December's deal to take effect by 2018.
European energy union Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič says the EU will commit to a "fundamental and disruptive transition" to a low-carbon economy when it signs the Paris agreement on climate change in New York on Friday.
It will join some 160 nations in New York in signing the agreement, the biggest signing of an international treaty ever.
It is hoped the signing - which coincides with Earth Day - could help pave the way for the pact to become effective long before the original 2020 deadline - possibly this year - though countries must first formally approve it through their domestic procedures.
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The agreement, to limit global warming below two degrees Celsius, was made late last year.
Once it is signed, each country needs to ratify it and work to reduce their emissions.
The signing ceremony, convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, follows the adoption of the agreement by 195 countries last December.
A Commission source pointed out that the EU was the first major economy to table its commitment to signing the deal and "now looks forward to having it ratified and entering into force swiftly."
The pact was a major breakthrough in UN climate negotiations, which for years were bogged down with disputes between rich and poor countries over who should do what to fight global warming.
The mood was so pessimistic after a failed 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, that UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said she thought a global deal would not happen in her lifetime. Now she expects the Paris protocol to take effect by 2018.
Under the agreement, countries set their own targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The targets are not legally binding.
Šefčovič and European climate action and energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete will attend the high-level ceremony in New York for the EU.
Ahead of the event, Šefčovič said: "Our signature means first and foremost that we are signing up to the commitments we made in Paris. It sends also a clear signal that we are signing up to a fundamental and disruptive transition to a low-carbon economy and society. Europe is part of this and will continue to be a driving force.
"That's why we need to deliver the energy union and create the conditions for future opportunities, innovation and job-creation that this transition will bring."
Further comment came from Cañete, who said: "We have agreed. We will sign, and we will act. In Europe, we have already started our homework of implementing the Paris agreement and we will continue to lead the global low-carbon economy transition.
"We will ratify the agreement by securing the support of our 29 parliaments, and by demonstrating that we will have the policies in place to meet our commitments."
He adds, "This will ensure that when we act, we will act on a solid legal basis."
Meanwhile, business leaders have called on world leaders to not only sign the agreement but implement it into national law "as a matter of urgency."
Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, representing over 120 European asset owners/managers, said, "The agreement reached in Paris was an historic breakthrough that delivered an unequivocal signal for investors to shift assets swiftly towards the low-carbon economy.
"It's now vital the 195 countries who adopted the agreement, especially the top 20 major emitters, amplify that signal that by signing and acceding to the agreement to bring it rapidly into force."
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