China ratifies Paris climate pact, US tipped to follow

Channel NewsAsia 3 Sep 16;

HANGZHOU: China ratified the Paris climate change accord on Saturday (Sep 3), with the US expected to do so later in a joint stand against global warming by the world's two biggest polluters.

The 180-nation accord sets ambitious goals for capping global warming and funnelling trillions of dollars to poor countries facing an onslaught of damage as a result of climate change.

It will come into effect 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified it.

China is responsible for almost a quarter of the world's emissions, with the US in second place on around 15 per cent, so their participation is crucial.

China's legislature, the National People's Congress, voted to adopt "the proposal to review and ratify the Paris Agreement", the official Xinhua news agency said.

Shortly after US President Barack Obama arrived in China for a G20 summit in the eastern city of Hangzhou, where he and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are expected to announce their joint formal joining of the accord.

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, cyberspying and the South China Sea - are able to find common cause.

Campaigners welcomed the move.

"China and the US, the two largest developing and developed country economies and emitters, joining the Paris Agreement shows that the global community can come together to address the threat of climate change," said Alvin Lin of the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

"Both countries are transforming their economies to grow through clean energy rather than fossil fuels, so their citizens can benefit from a cleaner environment and be competitive in the green economy," he told AFP.


The two giants are expected to use the summit, a gathering of the world's leading developed and emerging economies, to pressure others to do so.

"Xi and Obama should seize the opportunity to lead the world's 20 wealthiest nations by joining and building on the Paris agreement," said Greenpeace East Asia's senior climate policy adviser Li Shuo.

It is time for the Paris accord to "move from agreement to action", he added. "Political ambition must keep up with rising sea levels faced by vulnerable communities around the world."

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.

Until Saturday only 24 of the 180 signatories had ratified it, including France and many island states threatened by rising sea levels but who only produce a tiny proportion of the world's emissions.

For China, ratifying the agreement fits with Beijing's domestic political agenda of being seen to make efforts to clean up the environment, after years of breakneck industrial development led to soaring air, water and ground pollution.

The scourge is estimated to have caused hundreds of thousands of early deaths, and is the source of mounting public anger.

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.

Neither of those requirements implies a commitment to cut absolute levels of emissions, although China is also obliged to have them peak by "around 2030".

In its Paris commitment, the US promised to cut its own emissions 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025.

During the negotiations over the Paris deal Beijing stressed the concept of "differentiated responsibilities" - the idea that developed countries should shoulder the lion's share of the burden as they have polluted most since the Industrial Revolution.

For its part the White House is looking for the Paris accord to come into force during Obama's tenure, in part to burnish his climate legacy, but also to ensure the forthcoming US election does not obstruct US participation.

The administration is arguing that the deal does not need Congressional approval for ratification, which can be done by executive order.

Policymakers from Tokyo to Stockholm have bitter memories of George W. Bush and his Republican Party refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol after it was agreed by Bill Clinton's administration.

- AFP/ec

Paris climate deal: US and China formally join pact
BBC 3 Sep 16;

The US and China - together responsible for 40% of the world's carbon emissions - have both formally joined the Paris global climate agreement.

After arriving with other leaders of G20 nations for a summit in the city of Hangzhou, Mr Obama said: "History will judge today's effort as pivotal."

CO2 emissions are the driving force behind climate change.

Last December, countries agreed to cut emissions in a bid to keep the global average rise in temperatures below 2C.
What is climate change?

What does the climate deal mean for me?

The Paris deal is the world's first comprehensive climate agreement. It will only come into force legally after it is ratified by at least 55 countries, which between them produce 55% of global carbon emissions.

Members of China's National People's Congress Standing Committee adopted "the proposal to review and ratify the Paris Agreement" on Saturday morning at the end of a week-long session.

Analysis: BBC environmental analyst Roger Harrabin

This is a big step towards turning the Paris climate agreement into reality.

Other nations will still tussle over their own ratification, but this will put pressure on G20 nations over the weekend to move faster with their pledge to phase out subsidies to fossil fuels.

But even if enough other players step forward to make the Paris deal law, huge challenges lie ahead.

Before China made its announcement, the 23 nations that had so far ratified the agreement accounted for just over 1% of emissions.

The UK has yet to ratify the Paris deal. A spokesman for the prime minister told BBC News that the government would ratify as soon as possible - but gave no date.

The White House issued a statement on Saturday morning announcing the US move.

In a speech in Hangzhou, Mr Obama said the Paris deal was the "single best chance that have to deal with a problem that could end up transforming this planet".

He praised US and Chinese leadership on the climate issue, saying: "We are moving the world significantly towards the goal we have set."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised Mr Obama for what he called "inspiring" leadership.

Mr Ban said Mr Obama and China's President Xi Jinping had both been "far-sighted, bold and ambitious".

However, analysts warn that the target of keeping temperature rises below 2C is already in danger of being breached.

For 14 consecutive months meteorologists have recorded the hottest month on record, and the UK's Met Office has forecast that 2016 is likely to hit temperatures 1.1C above pre-industrial levels.

Average temperatures worldwide are likely to increase more in the coming years as the effect of previous carbon emissions makes itself felt.

Environmental campaigning group Friends of the Earth welcomed the move by China and the US.

But spokesman Asad Rehman added: "The Paris agreement is a step in the right direction, but the reality is it's too weak and delays action to the next decade.

"What's needed is comprehensive and urgent action now to slash emissions and build a low-carbon future."

The G20 summit in Hangzhou starts on Sunday.

This is expected to be Mr Obama's last trip to Asia as US president.

However, as he arrived there was a security dispute on the tarmac at Hangzhou airport as White House officials, including National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and reporters tried to get closer to the president. A Chinese official shooed them away shouting: "This is our country! This is our airport!"

Paris agreement: Key points
To keep global temperature increase "well below" 2C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C
To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century
To review progress every five years
$100bn a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future
Once the deal comes into force, countries that have ratified it have to wait for a minimum of three years before they exit

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