Untied States and China first nations to sign Paris Agreement
By Isadora Linheira
China and the Untied States the world’s two largest greenhouse gas polluters, are taking an historic step towards fighting climate change. The United States and China will be the first nations to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on April 22.
China’s President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama, made the announcement on March 31at a nuclear security meeting in Washington.
“Our cooperation and our joint statements were critical in arriving at the Paris agreement, and our two countries have agreed that we will not only sign the agreement on the first day possible, but we’re committing to formally join it as soon as possible this year… We urge other countries to do the same.” President Obama told the reporters at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Speaking through an interpreter, President Xi said, “As the two biggest economies, China and the U.S have a responsibility to work together.”
In February of this year, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s regulation that was meant to curb greenhouse gas pollution from power plants. The regulation is the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate change policy, and one of the only ways for the United States can meet its targets under the Paris agreement.
The Paris Agreement, is an agreement within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The Paris Agreement is monumental as the first global effort to commit every nation to take domestic actions to tackle climate change. The Paris Agreement was reached in December at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21).
To promote the Paris Agreement, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, planned the signing ceremony for April 22, Earth Day, however, the world leaders will have up to a year afterward to sign.
The announcement made by Obama and Xi might put some pressure on other countries to sign on. However, the Paris agreement will only enter into full legal force if enough countries have signed on. The number of countries to sign must be responsible for causing around 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. China and the Untied States account for about 40 percent of global emissions when combined.
According to The New York Times, due to the Supreme Court’s block, the regulation curbing greenhouse gas emissions will not be put in place until legal challenges by 29 states and several business organizations have been resolved, which is unlikely to happen before next year. The new regulation would help the U.S cut greenhouse gas emissions between 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
China’s energy experts said China’s pledge to sign the accord was independent of the status of American climate policy. According to Ranping Song, an expert on China’s climate change policies with the World Resources Institute, a Washington research organization, China is singing the Paris Agreement for its own sake. “It’s good for their environment, it’s good for their economy” said Song.
President Xi is considered a revolutionary when it comes to climate change. During his administration he has endorsed an aggressive expansion of renewable energy sources in China. The country’s latest five-year economy plan calls for the country to generate 15 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020, a plan that shows China is way leading the way in the climate change game.
Climate Change is a hot subject. For years it was flat out denied and often called a conspiracy theory, but recent reports and weather events have been alarming enough to move the world’s governments in action.
“The most important thing is how many signatures we get on that day,” said Laurence Tubiana, France’s chief climate change envoy to the United Nations and a key broker of the Paris deal. “We need to show momentum because we know for some countries it may be difficult to sign.”
The United States is not the only country that may have trouble following through on its Paris commitment. Dilma Rousseff of Brazil committed to an ambitious plan to reduce Brazil’s emissions 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The climate plan has been a signature of President Rousseff’s administration, however between political unrest, the widespread Zika and H1N1 outbreak’s, and Brazil’s President facing a possible impeachment, the Brazilian plan may be called into question.