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How Yet Another Paris Agreement Surprise Took Twitter by Storm

The EU ambassador to the UN, João Vale de Almeida (centre), handed in the EU's ratification documents in New York. Photo: @ValedeAlmeidaEU / Twitter
The EU ambassador to the UN, João Vale de Almeida (centre), handed in the EU's ratification documents in New York. Photo: @ValedeAlmeidaEU / Twitter

The EU’s final, high-speed sprint to ratify the Paris Agreement had caught many off guard, and so did yesterday’s sudden confirmation that the accord would take effect globally.

Following the vote in the European Parliament earlier this week – members overwhelmingly voted in favour of the agreement – it was expected the global climate accord would be triggered into action by a ceremony on Friday.

But a series of tweets from United Nations and EU government officials revealed around 5pm Brussels time that Europe’s paperwork had already been handed in at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday (5 October), setting into motion a 30-day countdown before the Paris Agreement on climate change takes effect globally.

This screenshot of the UN’s ratification tracker spread like wildfire. Doctoral student Jennifer Allan was one of the first to tweet it.

Seven of the EU’s member states have now ratified the agreement nationally, and thanks to the ratification at European Union level their share of global emissions now counts towards the threshold at which the Paris Agreement is triggered into force.

“Yes we can !!!” tweeted French diplomat Antoine Michon.

One journalist used a gif to gently poke fun at the EU for quickly handing in their paperwork so they could beat several other countries to being the ones to trigger the activation of the accord.

“It’s normally not this dizzying at the UN,” quipped UNICEF’s Olav Kjorven, highlighting the appointment of the new secretary general which also happened yesterday.

“Be there in Marrakesh!” tweeted Moroccan climate change minister Hakima El Haite, along with the hashtag “#ActionTime.”

The accord will come into force just days before the UN’s COP22 climate summit in Marrakesh where diplomats and officials will talk about how to implement the agreement.

“It’s official!” tweeted the European Union’s ambassador to the UN in New York, João Vale de Almeida, along with a photo taken at the UN’s treaty office where he handed in the required ratification documents.

De EU ambassador was joined in the treaty office by officials representing Slovakia, Hungary, France, Portugal, Malta, Germany and Austria, a photo tweeted by the German representation to the UN shows.

The French delegation to the UN also confirmed the news via Twitter, adding that the EU and seven of its member states ratified the agreement and confirming the date of it entering into force as “4 November.”

EU climate chief Miguel Arias Cañete tweeted “Great job!” to Slovakia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU’s council of ministers and helped broker the fast-track deal.

“What’s next? Climate action, let’s build that low-carbon economy,” tweeted Climate-KIC, the EU’s climate innovation partnership.

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa tweeted to confirm that the Paris Agreement’s governing body is set to meet for the first time next month.

Because the agreement comes into force just days ahead of the COP22 climate summit, which starts on 8 November, the meeting will take place in Marrakesh.

US president Obama called it a “history day to protect our planet for future generations.” His team tweeted a video clip of his announcement at the White House.

Obama made a point of thanking “every nation that moved to bring the Paris Agreement into force.”

“History will judge today as a turning point for our planet,” he tweeted.

Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres – credited with helping forge the deal in Paris last year – tweeted that the entry into force of the agreement presents a “strong signal to the global economy.”

But “now the necessary pace,” she urged.

The EU’s ratification blitz on Wednesday even appeared to have taken the Canadian climate change minister’s excellent social media team by surprise.

Canada’s parliament – led by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party – also happened to be debating and voting on the historic climate accord on Wednesday. Once parliamentarians endorsed the agreement, a tweet sent from Catherine McKenna’s account said the vote in Ottawa had brought the agreement “one step closer to entry into force.”

US energy secretary Ernest Moniz tweeted that the entering into force of the agreement is “just the beginning.” In a video attached to the tweet, Moniz outlines how the energy revolution has now started.

“Innovation is really at the centre of our approach to climate change,” he said, “we’re now going to double down on how this innovation pipeline is expanded,” he said.

US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she wants to build on president Obama’s climate change legacy to turn the United States into the world’s clean energy superpower.

Jim Messina, Obama’s former campaign manager, tweeted a reminder of how stark the contrast is between Clinton and her opponent, Donald Trump.

Climate Home editor Ed King quoted Obama from his speech outside the White House as saying the Paris accord will “open up the floodgates” of finance, innovation and science.

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