In what is being seen as a powerful signal, the U.S. and China have announced in a joint statement that leaders Barack Obama and Xi Jinping will both sign the Paris Climate Agreement. In a move that is hoped will compel other nations to formally follow the agreement, the announcement is seen as a strong indicator of the two nations' commitment to cut carbon emissions, and is key to securing cooperation around the globe.
“In Paris, the United States and China, working together and with others, played a critical role in crafting a historic, ambitious global climate change agreement,” the White House announced in a joint statement with China. “Today, the two Presidents announce another significant step in their joint climate efforts. The United States and China will sign the Paris Agreement on April 22nd and take their respective domestic steps in order to join the Agreement as early as possible this year.”
When the world leaders of 196 countries met in Paris last year much was pinned on the hope that they would thrash out an agreement between the nations to limit carbon emissions to prevent the world from warming by 1.5°C (2.7°F). For the first time ever, all nations were able to agree on this long-term deal, but before it can be brought into force it requires at least 55 countries that account for at least 55 percent of the global emissions to sign it within a year starting from April 22.
Much attention is often turned to what the U.S. and China are doing, as they are two of the most polluting nations, who have historically found little to agree on. Jointly the countries account for 40 percent of global carbon emissions, meaning that they are often the lynchpin when it comes to other nations' climate change agreements. If one were to sign, but not the other, then many countries often see little point in signing it themselves. But now that they have both agreed to honor their commitments, it is hoped it will open the floodgates for other countries to follow.
The announcement notes how climate change has become “a pillar of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship,” something which is reflected in that over the last two years there have been three joint announcements between the two nations in relation to climate change. It goes on to state that “the Presidents further express their commitment to work together and with others to promote the full implementation of the Paris Agreement to win the fight against the climate threat.”
The announcement comes a few weeks ahead of a ceremony to be held at the UN headquarters in New York on April 22, which is also Earth Day, where the agreement will be opened for signatures. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited around 120 countries to turn up and sign the Paris Climate Agreement, and if enough do so, then the agreement will become operational this year.