The United States and China on Saturday formally joined the Paris climate deal, with President Barack Obama hailing the accord as the “moment we finally decided to save our planet”.
The move by the world’s two biggest polluters is a major step forward for the 180-nation accord, which sets ambitious goals for capping global warming and funnelling trillions of dollars to poor countries facing climate catastrophe. Mr. Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping handed ratification documents to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who said he was now optimistic the agreement will be in force by the end of this year.
At the ceremony in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Mr. Obama said climate change would “define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other challenge”.
History would show that the Paris deal would “ultimately prove to be a turning point”, he said, “the moment we finally decided to save our planet”. The Paris agreement aims to limit global temperature increases to two degrees centigrade, and will be triggered after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, ratify it.
Two biggest pollutors China is responsible for almost a quarter of the world’s emissions, with the U.S. in second place on around 15 per cent, so their participation is crucial.
China’s Parliament ratified the agreement earlier on Saturday, and Mr. Xi said the Asian giant was “solemnly” committed to the issue.
“Hopefully this will encourage other countries to take similar efforts,” he said in Hangzhou, where he is to host the G20 summit of the world’s leading developed and emerging economies.
Until Saturday, only 24 of the signatories had ratified the accord, including France and many island states threatened by rising sea levels but who only produce a tiny proportion of the world’s emissions.
Mr. Ban said there would be a “high level” meeting in New York later this month to push more countries do so, and told the two leaders that they had “added powerful momentum” to efforts to bring the accord into force.
Climate is one of the few areas where the world’s two most powerful countries — who are at loggerheads on issues ranging from trade disputes, cyber-spying and the South China Sea — are able to find common cause.
Campaigners welcomed the move, with WWF saying the two giants economies had sent “a very powerful signal that there will be real global action on climate change”.
The Paris pact calls for capping global warming at well below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and 1.5 C (2.7 F) if possible, compared with pre-industrial levels.
Individual commitments Under the Paris accord, China has pledged to cut its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and increase non-fossil fuel sources in primary energy consumption to about 20 per cent. In its Paris commitment, the U.S. promised to cut its own emissions 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025.
For its part the White House is looking for the Paris accord to come into force during Mr. Obama’s tenure, in part to burnish his climate legacy, but also to ensure the forthcoming U.S. election does not obstruct U.S. participation. The administration is arguing that the deal does not need Congressional approval for ratification, which can be done by executive order. © AFP, 2016