US and China Come Together for Historic Climate Agreement Ratification

Marc Jourdan, GFDD UN Programs & Outreach Manager


On Saturday September 3, President Barack Obama of the United States and President Xi Jinping of China ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, in the lead up to the G20 meeting taking place in China on September 4 and 5, 2016.

Marking a rare show of unity between the two largest greenhouse gas polluting countries on the planet, this coming together provided proof, as discussed in our previous blog post on this issue, that climate policy negotiations work, and that the Paris Agreement may possibly come into force before the end of 2016.

shutterstock_98007191As reported in another blog post earlier in the year, when the agreement was adopted at the last UN climate meeting in Paris in December, some key elements included: a target to limit global warming below 2°C, with further efforts to limit it below 1.5 °C, a financing mechanism that will raise at least US$100 billion a year to help developing countries tackle climate change, and review and monitoring process that will track the transparency of pledges and raise its ambition in five-yearly cycles.

What makes this coming together such a big step is the fact that the two countries responsible for 38% of global emissions, brings us steps closer to the legal requirement that the agreement must be ratified by 55 countries, representing 55% of global emissions, in order to come into force (now 26 countries have ratified including the US and China, accounting for 39.07% of emissions).

shutterstock_232193734Several media publications, including TheGuardian, are now announcing a potential ratification “surge” in September at the United Nations 71st General Assembly, with other major emitters such as Brazil, the world’s seventh largest emitter, to follow. Climate Analytics, a nonprofit climate science and policy institute, have issued their own report projecting that at least another 32 Parties would be likely to ratify the Agreement by the end of 2016.

shutterstock_346429127U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has now invited the world’s leaders to the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 21 to deposit their official instruments for ratification or acceptance and so to bring the Paris agreement into force as soon as possible.

Despite the vote of climate confidence by these two nations, analysts warn that the target of keeping temperature rises below 2C is already in danger of being defaulted on. For 14 consecutive months meteorologists have recorded the hottest month on record and as we blogged about previously 2015 was recorded as the hottest year on record! Average temperatures worldwide are likely to increase more in the coming years as the effect of previous carbon emissions makes itself felt.

shutterstock_73804195With that in mind, despite welcoming this step forward, the environmental campaigning group Friends of the Earth warned BBC news that the Paris Agreement was simply “too weak and delays action to the next decade”, calling instead for all countries to take up “comprehensive and urgent action now to slash emissions and build a low-carbon future.”

This historic ratification clearly signals a new page being turned in the efforts to address climate change. However, if US and China seek to overcome the criticism of environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth then they will need to rapidly step up their game to create a low carbon economy that avoids the worst impacts of climate change.

To find out more about each prospective country commitment to ratify the Paris Agreement please read:

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