Paris Agreement Gains Momentum

The world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters – United States and China – formally joined the landmark Paris Agreement in a ceremony in Hangzhou, China ahead of the G20 Summit in September. President Obama and President Xi both deposited their country’s official instrument with United Nations Secretary, General Ban-Ki Moon.

Why is this announcement important?

The United States and China together account for approximately 38 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. By swiftly joining the Paris Agreement, the United States and China have moved from words to deeds, encouraging other world leaders to follow their lead.

Today’s joint statement also deepens the relationship between the two countries on climate change, building on previous joint statements released in November 2014and September 2015, which helped pave the way for success at COP21 last year. In joining the Paris Agreement together, they have emphasized what can be achieved through cooperation and reconfirmed their responsibility to lead by example.

About the Paris Climate Agreement

The Paris Climate Agreement, adopted by 195 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) last December in Paris, calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.

The Paris Agreement marked a watershed moment in taking action on climate change.  After years of negotiation, countries agreed to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

Even as the agreement was adopted, countries recognized that present pledges to reduce emissions were still insufficient to reach these goals.  The Paris Agreement mandates regular meetings every five years, starting in 2018, to review progress and to consider whether it is necessary to increase ambition.

In an extraordinary show of support for the Paris climate agreement, 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement at a ceremony in New York on 22 April, far exceeding the historical record for first-day signatures to an international agreement. Signing is the first step toward joining the Agreement, and must be followed by the deposit of the instrument of ratification or acceptance.

While 195 countries adopted the Agreement last year, it will actually enter into force when 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions join by approving it domestically and submitting their “instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval” to the UN. The U.S.-China move brings the world firmly within range of hitting the 55-55 threshold this year.

Read more on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals here and the World Resources Institute briefing here.