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Climate Change

US & China Will Ratify Paris Agreement Before G20

In Beijing, senior US and Chinese officials worked extra late Tuesday night to finalize a joint ratification of last December’s landmark Paris Agreement on climate action. On September 4, the summit meeting of the Group of Twenty major economies begins in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China. There President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama are expected to make it official.

US-China flags at the Great Wall (

China and the US have the unfortunate distinction of leading countries of the world in global greenhouse gas emissions. Their contributions total about 38% of the world’s harmful runaway gases, according to the World Resources Institute.

Joint action in 2014 by China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama led to the overwhelming passage of the Paris Agreement at the 2015 COP21 meeting of 195 United Nations representatives. China then promised to peak its record emissions before 2030, and the US promised to cut its own by at least 26%. The rest of the world followed, setting a hopeful precedent for official ratification, a process that began for 175 nations on Earth Day this year (April 22, 2016).

It’s likely that the two nations will announce their bilateral announcement tomorrow, close sources have indicated. The report originated at the South China Morning Post. An unidentified source noted:

“There are still some uncertainties from the US side due to the complicated US system in ratifying such a treaty, but the announcement is still quite likely to be ready by September 2.”

US law permits the nation to enter international agreements in a number of ways. These include the authority of the president. According to those who track such events, “the Obama administration’s commitment to international frameworks suggests the accord would be passed in a way that would make it difficult for his successors to undo.”

Reports indicate that Brazil, another important world economy and the 7th largest emitter, is also on the cusp of ratification. Smaller nations, including Costa Rica, Tonga, and the Bahamas, have also ratified the pact within the past few days. With China, the US, and Brazil, participation will already exceed 41% of emissions generated. The German consultancy Climate Analytics noted last week that 57 countries representing almost 60% of global emissions have said they will ratify this year.

Says Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive at Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change:

“Governments must ratify the Paris Agreement swiftly. [They] have a responsibility to implement policies that drive better disclosure of climate risk, curb fossil fuel subsidies, and put in place strong pricing signals sufficient to catalyze the significant private sector investment in low-carbon solutions.”

In jointly ratifying the Paris Agreement before the G20 meeting, the US and China will likely generate irresistible momentum for the climate agreement to achieve the necessary 55% participation of countries and emissions and become a binding international treaty. The announcement will probably constitute the last major joint statement from the two leaders before President Obama’s term ends.

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covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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