US and China ratify Paris Agreement, accelerating momentum towards a net-zero economy

Reading time: 6 minutes
5 September 2016

LONDON: The United States and China, the world’s biggest economies and largest polluters, formally committed to the climate Paris Agreement during the G20 meeting in China on Saturday – adding “powerful momentum to the drive for the Agreement to enter into force this year,” according to  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

To enter into force, the climate agreement must be ratified by at least 55 countries, accounting for 55% of global carbon emissions. With the addition of US and China, the total number of countries that have ratified the agreement has reached 26, accounting for 39% of global emissions – spurring hopes it will enter into force by the end of the year.

The significance of the announcement is reflected by the fact that until Saturday, nations who had ratified the agreement accounted for just over 1% of the world’s emissions.

The joint statement comes after two years of climate collaboration between the North American and Asian superpowers, who agreed a series of bilateral deals in 2014 and 2015 that directed global political will towards a net-zero future.

FROM COMMITMENT TO ACTION

Damian Ryan, Acting CEO, The Climate Group, said: “Less than a year after the historic COP21 deal was reached, the two largest emitters in the world have shown the bold leadership required for us to secure the climate resilient, prosperous future we all want.

“By ratifying the Paris Agreement, China and the US have moved from commitment to action, and will now start to embed forward thinking, long-term climate policies nationally.

“From offering a clear and stable policy landscape, both countries can now attract global businesses looking to invest in clean energy solutions and low carbon technologies that support their business operations.

“No one underestimates that there is still much to do to achieve the vision of the Paris Agreement, however, this commitment from China and the US is a significant step to move us forward to this future much faster.

“We now need all national governments, not least those of the G20, to follow their lead, and see ratification not as a burden, but an economic opportunity that can help attract investment, stimulate economies and create sustainable job growth. Governments that don’t seize this opportunity quickly will be left behind.”

G20 Summit in Hangzhou official photo, courtesy of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Photo: Xinhua/Pang Xinglei - (CC BY-NC 2.0)

AMERICA’S CLIMATE MOMENTUM

Amy Davidsen, North America Executive Director, The Climate Group, said: “President Obama and his administration have clearly put climate action at the heart of their legacy. From the White House Business pledge to ratifying with China at the G20, they have recognised the critical leadership role they can play in international negotiations.

“However, with a pivotal US election on the horizon, the momentum and ambition from this announcement must not be forgotten by the next administration.

Climate Week NYC 2016 kicks off in less than two weeks and this year The Climate Group is gathering decision makers from business and government to demonstrate how continued investment in innovation, technology and clean energy will drive new jobs, prosperous economies and healthy communities across the US.

“Many American businesses, investors, states, regions and cities are already at the forefront of this transition and are looking at the next administration to continue this leadership.”

NET-ZERO PATH TO UNDER 2 DEGREES

The joint declaration has been hailed as a landmark moment to spur action towards a net-zero economy, the only one able to keep global warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius,” compared to pre-industrial times as stated in the Paris Agreement. To avoid the worst effects of climate change, the world’s emissions must peak by 2020 and reach zero by the end of 2050.

With  ratification by the US and China, the spotlight is now on India. The country, the fourth biggest polluter after the EU, accounts for about 6% of global emissions. Before Paris, it pledged to reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level, while achieving about 40% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by the same date.

Last July, India set a world record by planting 50 million trees in  one day, as part of its commitment to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

The Paris Agreement is instrumental in realizing the inevitable net-zero path, but to achieve it governments and businesses must still improve their commitments and attract further clean investments and research. “Now, with these two big countries joining the Paris Agreement,” concluded Ban Ki-moon, “I am sure that we can really set a very ambitious dynamic step forward.”

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