In a move that's being called "historic," the European Parliament has approved the ratification of the first ever legally binding worldwide climate deal, putting the agreement within days of going into effect.
The approval comes only two days after one of the world's biggest greenhouse-gas emitters, India, ratified the Paris climate deal and one week after the planet passed a major atmospheric-carbon milestone of 400 parts per million.
The move follows an agreement by EU leaders in mid-September that they speed up the ratification process. With the parliament's approval, the 28 EU member states are now expected to individually ratify the agreement.
"What some believed impossible is now real," tweeted European Council president Donald Tusk in reaction to the announcement.
The EU's approval is a huge step because the climate deal needs a minimum of 55 countries, representing at least 55 percent of global emissions, in order to become legally binding. As of today, 62 countries representing 52 percent of global emissions are on board.
China and the U.S. — the world's largest emitters — ratified the deal in September, with 18 more countries expected to follow suit, according to Climate Analytics, a site that tracks the countries that have accepted the deal.
Collectively, the EU is the third-largest emitter after China and the U.S., with India in fourth place.
"With the action taken by the EU parliament, I am confident that we will be able to cross the 55 percent threshold very soon, in just a matter of a few days," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, according to the BBC. "I am extremely honored to be able to witness this historic moment."
Ban Ki-moon has also "warmly" congratulated India for its "climate leadership."
In December, 195 countries agreed in principle to peak emissions as quickly as possible to limit the global average temperature well below two degrees Celsius, aiming for 1.5 degrees Celsius. That goal would avoid the worst effects of catastrophic climate change.
The earth is getting steadily hotter, with melting ice caps, glaciers and sea ice among the major effects, according to scientists tracking global indicators of climate change.
2015 had the hottest temperatures and highest sea levels on record, according to a report released in August that compiled data from more than 450 scientists in 62 countries. 2015 also saw 101 tropical storms across the world's oceans — many more than the average of 82 storms per year from 1981 to 2010.