US and China to sign the Paris Agreement on the first day of opening

Barack Obama and Xi Jinping on Thursday (March 31) announced they will sign the Paris Agreement on climate change on April 22, at the signing ceremony organized by the United Nations in New York.

In a joint statement released during an official visit by Chinese head of state to the United States this week, the two leaders affirmed that “climate change has become a pillar of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship”, adding they will take measures to fully join the Agreement as early as possible this year. They recalled the U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change of November 2014 and the more recent joint statement of September 2015 as significant steps in their collaboration on climate change and low-carbon development.

The announcement of the world’s top two greenhouse gas emitters (accounting for around 40% global emissions) adds positive signals for the awaited signing ceremony of the Paris deal that needs to be ratified by at least 55 countries accounting for at least 55% of global GHG emissions to enter into force. Countries have one year to sign the deal until April 2017 but experts say early ratification is essential to keep the momentum after COP21 and fast-track climate action also before 2020.

“The most important thing is how many signatures we get on that day,” said Laurence Tubiana, France’s chief climate change envoy to the United Nations and a key negotiator of the Paris deal, according to The New York Times.

UN sources recently said they expect about 120 nations to put their signature on the deal on April 22.

Pacific island nations of Fiji, Marshall Islands and Palau have already ratified the Paris agreement through their respective domestic process.

European institutions in March encouraged EU member states to ratify the agreement “as soon as possible”.

UNFCCC this week published a new online registry to collect and publicity disclose formal national climate plans under the Paris Agreement, currently listing Papua New Guinea’s NDC.



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