US and China bring early start of Paris deal closer

China and the United States on Saturday (Sept. 3) announced the ratification of the Paris agreement on climate change. The landmark move by the two largest global emitters on the UN climate deal “has brought its rapid entry into force a big step closer”, according to official comment by UNFCCC.

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the opening of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, announced they have deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN Secretary-General. The double threshold of the Paris agreement requires the ratification by at least 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global GHG emissions. The formal joining by US and China puts the balance at just over 39 percent of the global emissions, UNFCCC stated.

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, highlighted the significant progress in his official remarks: “With China and the United States making this historic step, we now have 26 countries who have ratified and 39 per cent of global emissions accounted for, to be exact. We just need another 29 countries representing 16 per cent of global emissions to bring this Paris Agreement into force. I am hopeful and optimistic that we can do it before the end of this year and before my term as Secretary-General of the United Nations ends.”

In July the UN chief invited world leaders to a special event in New York on 21 September to speed up countries’ ratification and “help efforts to secure early entry into force of the agreement”.

An earlier than expected entry into force is a credible hypothesis, according to experts, as the US-China joint move could spur further ratifications by other countries such as Brazil and Canada. “The general thinking at that time was at that time it would come into force in 2020,” said the deputy chief of the UN’s climate body Richard Kinley, Climate Home reported, “We are now poised to see the agreement come into effect this year”. “We expect a surge of ratifications around the U.N. Climate week later in September”, chief executive of Climate Analytics Bill Hare told Reuters.

Despite the positive signal for the international action on climate change and for global investors, an anticipated start of the Paris agreement would create unexpected conditions to be addressed and represents an essential but partial step in the collective effort to effectively curb global emissions and face climate impacts.


(US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping during a bilateral meeting, March 24, 2014. Photo credit: U.S. Embassy The Hague on Flickr)