China and US come together to ratify Paris climate agreement

China and the US – the top two greenhouse gas emitters in the world – have both agreed to ratify the Paris Agreement, a global framework to limit the effects of climate change.

While China had already earlier announced that it would ratify the agreement, the joint announcement has been hailed by climate campaigners as a significant advance in combating global warming, The Guardian reports.

President Obama hopes that the willingness of the two superpowers to work together on climate change – despite their myriad of disagreements on other issues – will inspire “greater ambition and greater action” worldwide.

“Just as I believe the Paris agreement will ultimately prove to be a turning point for our planet, I believe that history will judge today’s efforts as pivotal,” said Obama, speaking with 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 US 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,” Obama said.

According to the Associated Press, President Xi vowed that China would uphold the Paris Agreement.

“I have said many times that green mountains and clear water are as good as mountains of gold and silver. To protect the environment is to protect productivity and to improve the environment is to boost productivity,” Xi said.

“We will unwaveringly pursue sustainable development and stay committed to green, low-carbon and circular development and to China’s fundamental policy of conserving resources and protecting the environment.”

Xi added that the Chinese government has full intentions to “make China a beautiful country with a blue sky, green vegetation and clear rivers so that our people can enjoy their lives in a liveable environment with the ecological benefits created by economic development.”

‘On the right track’

The joint announcement has been met with nearly unanimous praise by climate experts and other world leaders.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called the ratification a “historic step”, while French President Francois Hollande wrote on his Facebook wall that he “salutes” the decision and believes it will open the way for the Paris Agreement to come into force at the end of the year.

David Waskow, the international climate director of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based thinktank, described the announcement as a sign the world’s two largest economies had moved from “making commitments to delivering action”, The Guardian writes.

“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. There’s no question that this historic partnership on climate change will be one of the defining legacies of Obama’s presidency.”

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

Yet in the US the Republican-majority Congress has questioned whether Obama has the legal right to ratify the Paris Agreement by decree.

The Congress claims the US constitution gives it the right to “advice and consent” in making treaties, but the chamber does not ratify treaties and the US has since the Second World War relied on “executive agreements” not submitted to the Senate.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to under 2°C of pre-industrial levels and support the development of low GHG and climate-friendly technologies, such as biofuels and bioenergy.

This article was written by Ilari Kauppila, deputy editor at Bioenergy Insight

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