US and China ratify Paris treaty

5th September 2016

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Andrew Sweetman

The US and China have ratified the Paris agreement to keep global warming temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping submitted their joint statement to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon ahead of the G20 summit, which started in China yesterday. Announcing the pact, Obama said: ‘Someday we may see this as the moment that we finally decided to save our planet.’

The Paris agreement only comes into force when 55 countries, representing 55% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, ratify it. Collectively, the US and China are responsible for around 40% of the world’s emissions, and represents a significant step towards ratification. Before the announcement only 23 countries, with a combined emissions tally of just over 1%, had ratified the treaty.

‘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,’ said Obama

Chinese and US approval puts pressure on both the EU and the UK to ratify the Paris agreement. The EU speaks with one voice at UN meetings, and member states, including the UK, are bound by the same target – an emissions reduction of at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Ségolène Royal, the French politician who currently presides over the UN climate talks, wants the EU to ratify the treaty this autumn. ‘European countries have a duty to ratify the Paris agreement before the next conference of the parties in Marrakech,’ she said. COP 22 opens on 7 November in the Moroccan city.

The UK government has so far not made a firm commitment on when it will ratify the treaty. The Labour party has called for a long-term cross-party consensus on climate policy. In a letter to the prime minister, shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change Barry Gardiner urged the government to take all steps to ensure the UK endorses the Paris agreement on climate change by the end of the year.

‘Coming after the US and China have jointly ratified the global climate deal, it is time for the UK to regain the bipartisan political leadership that saw Britain adopt the historic Climate Change Act back in 2008,’ he said.

In a move supported by the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the Green Party, Gardiner has offered his counterpart, energy secretary Greg Clark, the opportunity to use his opposition day debate on Wednesday, to complete MPs’ formal sign off on the treaty.

‘If the UK does not begin domestic ratification procedures shortly, the UK risks being left out of the group of founding parties to the agreement when it comes into force - which experts estimate will happen by the end of this year,’ Gardiner warned.


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