US, China ratify Paris climate agreement

OREANDA-NEWS. September 05, 2016. The US and China today formally joined the Paris climate agreement, greatly boosting its chances of entering into force this year.

The countries submitted their formal documents of ratification to the UN, signifying they have adopted the agreement. The step shows the world the US and China, as the largest emitters in the world, are "leading by example," US president Barack Obama said.

"Our entrance into this agreement continues the momentum of Paris, and should give the rest of the world confidence - whether developed or developing countries - that a low-carbon future is where the world is heading," he said.

Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping announced the ratification while meeting in Hangzhou, China, ahead of the G20 summit, which is being held there. The two leaders also announced other climate-related steps, including agreeing to support action by the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization to adopt a market-based mechanism for emissions from commercial aircraft this fall. They also said they would work together to reach agreement this year on an "ambitious" amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down hydrofluorocarbons.

Including the US and China, 26 countries accounting for about 40pc of global emissions now have formally adopted or ratified the Paris agreement. The accord will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries representing 55pc of global emissions formally join. Another 154 countries have signed but not ratified the agreement.

The Paris accord calls on nearly 200 countries to take steps to limit the increase in global average temperatures to 2°C. It includes binding obligations for countries to report on their progress in achieving their emissions pledges, but it does not make those commitments legally binding.

The US has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28pc from 2005 levels by 2025. China has pledged that its emissions will reach a peak by 2030, if not sooner.

The agreement could reach its tipping point later this month, on 21 September, when UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon hosts an event in New York for world leaders to formally deposit their instruments of ratification.

"The earlier that Paris is ratified and implemented in full, the more secure that future will become," UN Framework Convention on Climate Change executive director Patricia Espinosa said.

Other major emitters, including the EU and India have said they will act as quickly as possible to ratify the agreement.

The US administration is treating the accord as an executive agreement, rather than submit it to a Republican-controlled Senate that almost certainly would refuse to ratify it. Previous administrations have used such a process for other international agreements. But Republicans have repeatedly called for a Senate vote, saying that otherwise the agreement remains non-binding on the US.

Supporters said the actions announced by the US and China will provide a significant boost to global efforts to address climate change.

"The US and China are raising the bar for domestic climate action and international cooperation. The history books will note that these leaders significantly advanced the baton as the Paris agreement shifts from commitments on paper to action on the ground," World Resources Institute president Andrew Steer said.