The two countries responsible for the most carbon emissions officially joined the Paris global climate agreement over the weekend.
United States President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping made the announcement from a summit on climate change taking place in Hangzhou, China on Saturday. This decision is a major step forward for the world leaders as the international community tries to reach an agreement on how to attain a future with less air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
“Where there is a will and there is a vision and where countries like China and the United States are prepared to show leadership and to lead by example,” Obama said regarding the announcement. “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.”
Together the U.S. and China account for 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. In order for the Paris climate agreement to take effect, 55 countries that are responsible for 55 percent of the world’s carbon gas emissions need to officially ratify the document. Prior to the latest news about the two top polluters joining, there were 24 countries involved that make up only one percent of carbon emissions, including India, who joined the Paris agreement in June after talking with President Obama at the White House.
As global temperatures continue to set record-breaking highs, the Paris agreement consists of several goals including keeping the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius, with a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement also seeks to curb peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the 21st century. Countries that agree to join have to wait a minimum of three years before they can exit, and progress will be reviewed every five years. It also includes a goal of $100 billion a year towards climate finance for developing countries by the year 2020, and a commitment to more finance in the future. China’s leaders have agreed to reduce coal consumption and make 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030.
David Waskow, the international climate director of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based thinktank, says, “When the two largest emitters lock arms to solve climate change, that is when you know we are on the right track. Never before have these two countries worked so closely together to address a global challenge. There’s no question that this historic partnership on climate change will be one of the defining legacies of Obama’s presidency.”
Read the full White House press release here.