PARIS -- The international agreement on fighting climate change from 2020 onward looks increasingly likely to enter into force just before a United Nations conference in early November, possibly leaving Japan behind.
The European Union has begun steps toward ratification sooner than expected, a move that may prove decisive. Among big emerging economies, India has said it will ratify on Oct. 2. The U.S. and China, the world's top two emitters, have already done so.
For the so-called Paris Agreement to take effect, at least 55 countries, responsible for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, need to endorse it. The first of these conditions has already been met, with 61 nations having ratified it as of Monday. However, the ratification count represented slightly less than 48% of emissions, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat.
The EU, which accounts for 12% of emissions, could put it over the top. The bloc had been expected to ratify the agreement next year, given the time needed to complete the necessary procedures among its 28 member states and at the union level.
But the EU is now considering a fast-track approach, partly at the urging of French President Francois Hollande, who has argued that Europe must not bring up the rear. A proposal has emerged to allow the EU to ratify the agreement ahead of member states. Environment ministers could agree on such a move at an ad-hoc meeting scheduled for Friday, paving the way for a vote in the European Parliament early next month.
The first ministerial-level meeting of the U.N. climate convention since last December's adoption of the Paris Agreement will be held in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh starting Nov. 7. The agreement goes into effect 30 days after the ratification conditions are met, so if the EU were to do its part early enough in October, conference participants could discuss specific measures for implementation with the deal already in force.
Japan's government aims to see the agreement ratified during the country's current parliamentary session. While no Japanese political parties have come out against the deal, lawmakers have plenty of other major legislation to consider, including ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a U.S.-led free trade deal.
"Depending on how the TPP deliberations go, we may run out of time to consider the Paris Agreement," said a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
That would result in Japan being left out of any separate meeting in Marrakesh of states that had already ratified, a government source said. Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto has expressed concern that "Japan may be relegated to an unfavorable position on the environment."