Breakthrough as US and China agree to ratify Paris climate deal

Campaigners hail key moment in battle against global warming as presidents Obama and Xi announce deal on eve of G20 summit in Hangzhou

The United States and China, the worlds biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have announced they will formally ratify the Paris climate change agreement in a move campaigners immediately hailed as a significant advance in the battle against global warming.

Speaking on Saturday, on the eve of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, US president, Barack Obama, confirmed the long-awaited move, the result of weeks of intense negotiations by Chinese and American officials.

Just as I believe the Paris agreement will ultimately prove to be a turning point for our planet, I believe that history will judge todays efforts as pivotal, said Obama, who was speaking in the presence of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

Where there is a will and there is a vision and where countries like China and the United States are prepared to show leadership and to lead by example, it is possible for us to create a world that is more secure, more prosperous and more free than the one that was left for us, added Obama, for whom the commitment is part of a final push to secure a green legacy for his presidency.

Earlier China had announced it would formally ratify the Paris accord with President Xi vowing to unwaveringly pursue sustainable development.

Our response to climate change bears on the future of our people and the well-being of mankind, Xi said, according to the Associated Press.

Obama said the joint announcement showed how the worlds two largest economies were capable of coming together to fight climate change.

Despite our differences on other issues we hope that our willingness to work together on this issue will inspire greater ambition and greater action around the world, he said.

We have a saying in America that you need to put your money where your mouth is, Obama told an audience at Hangzhous West Lake state guesthouse. And when it comes to combating climate change that is what we are doing we are leading by example.

If the Paris agreement comes into force this year as hoped, it means the nearly 200 governments party to it will become obliged to meet emissions-cutting pledges made before the deal last December. For example, the EU has a national determined contribution of cutting emissions by 40% by 2030 on 1990 levels, and the US by up to 28% by 2025 compared with 2005.

The deal coming into force would also commit the countries to aspire to keep temperatures below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels a tall ask and one that will require those country pledges to be ramped up and for rich countries to continue giving climate aid to poorer countries beyond 2020.

David Waskow, the international climate director of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based thinktank, described the US-China announcement as a sign the worlds two largest economies had moved from making commitments to delivering action.

When the two largest emitters lock arms to solve climate change, that is when you know we are on the right track, Waskow said. Never before have these two countries worked so closely together to address a global challenge. Theres no question that this historic partnership on climate change will be one of the defining legacies of Obamas presidency.

Ranping Song, the groups China expert, called the announcement a tremendous milestone in the fight against climate change. [This is] the two big countries coming together to acknowledge the challenges and then working together to tackle them, Song said. Its good news.

The world finally has a global climate agreement with both the US and China as formal parties, said Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International. This signals a new era in global efforts to address climate change.

In Washington, the Republican-controlled Congress has questioned Obamas legal right to ratify the accord by decree, noting that the constitution grants the Senate a role of advice and consent in making treaties.

But the chamber does not ratify treaties, and the US also has increasingly relied on executive agreements since the second world war. Those agreements are not submitted to the Senate but are also considered binding in international law.

The Paris agreement, sealed last December after two weeks of frantic negotiations, must be ratified by 55 countries, representing 55% of global emissions, in order to come into force.

The news that the worlds top two emitters who are together responsible for about 38% of emissions would formally ratify the deal is therefore a major step towards achieving that.

Graphic how Paris deal could come into force

Before Saturday, only 24 countries responsible for about 1% of global emissions had ratified the agreement, while 180 had signed it.

Shortly before Obama landed in Hangzhou, China became the 25th country to ratify the agreement. It said the move would safeguard environmental security and was conducive to Chinas development interests.

Song said the move increased the likelihood that the Paris deal would be implemented by the end of this year, possibly even before Novembers UN climate summit in Marrakesh. This would not be happening without the US and China ratifying the agreement, he said.

Climate campaigners now expected a ratification surge in September, with other major emitters such as Brazil, the worlds seventh largest emitter, following suit, Song added.

Li Shuo, Greenpeaces China climate policy adviser, said that if the international community did succeed in bringing the Paris deal into effect by the end of 2016 it would have been achieved at lightening speed compared with most international treaties.

Under Obama and Xi, US-China relations have been blighted by friction over issues such as the South China Sea, cyber espionage and, more recently, a planned missile defense system in South Korea.


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