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US-China Ratify Paris Climate Deal
Sep 14, 2016

The US and China—together responsible for 40% of the world's carbon emissions—have both formally joined the Paris global climate agreement. After arriving with other leaders of G-20 nations for a summit in the city of Hangzhou, US & Chinese Presidents said history will judge today's effort as pivotal.

  • This is a big step towards turning the Paris climate agreement into reality.
  • CO2 emissions are the driving force behind climate change. Last December, countries agreed to cut emissions in a bid to keep the global average rise in temperatures below 2C.
  • The Paris deal is the world's first comprehensive climate agreement.
  • It will only come into force legally after it is ratified by at least 55 countries, which between them produce 55% of global carbon emissions.
  • Other nations will still tussle over their own ratification, but this will put pressure on G-20 nations to move faster with their pledge to phase out subsidies to fossil fuels.
  • Before China made its announcement, the 23 nations that had so far ratified the agreement accounted for just over 1% of emissions.
  • The UK has yet to ratify the Paris deal.

What the Ratification Delivers

The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) of China and the United States would deliver 51 per cent of the avoided cumulative Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from 2016-2100 from all of the INDCs in the Paris Agreement. Of this, the U.S. would deliver 19 per cent, and China 31 per cent of the avoided cumulative GHG emissions from 2016-2100. If both countries kept their pledges to 1050 Giga Tons (billion tons) of GHG would be kept out of the atmosphere

Their calculations also show that deeper, earlier emissions cuts are needed to limit warming to well below 2°C or all the way to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5°C. In one possible scenario to limit warming to 1.5°C, it would be necessary for the United States to decrease its emissions approximately 10 per cent per year, more aggressively than it pledged in its INDC, starting 2020. And China would need to peak its emissions by 2025, not 2030, and begin reducing emissions approximately 3.5 per cent per year thereafter.

Paris Agreement: Key Points

  • To keep global temperature increase well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
  • To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.
  • To review progress every five years.
  • $100 billion  a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.
  • Once the deal comes into force, countries that have ratified it have to wait for a minimum of three years before they exit.

The world’s two biggest emitters account for 38 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with China, the alone accounting for 20 per cent of emissions, as per data made available by Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan. A note put out by the organisations also point out that the pledges of China and United States to the Paris Agreement would deliver half of the agreement’s climate impact.

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