On April 22, “Earth Day,” The United States will join China and about 150 other governments at the United Nations for a symbolic signing ceremony of the historically significant Paris accords on climate change between 195 nations. This will be the largest signing of an international accord on one day in history.
The agreement has proceeded at a much faster pace than had been expected, as the original deadline to turn around the Paris deal was 2020. Now, countries including U.S., China, and Canada are looking to get started on work laid out in the agreement as early as 2016 or 2017, indicating serious commitment.
“It’s likely it could come into effect in 2017. It could even happen this year,” Catherine McKenna, Environment and Climate Change Minister of Canada, said last week..
This is a welcome development in light of the challenges that have faced the accords since their announcement in December. It was not known if China, the world’s largest greenhouse gasses polluter, would actually go along. Additionally, at least 55 of the world’s nations who are involved in 55 percent of worldwide carbon and greenhouse emissions need to sign on or the accords will not have the international enforcement power that is being sought for the COP21 agreement.
Both President Obama and China’s president Xi Jinping, however, announced in March that they would be taking part in April’s signing ceremony.
“The joint efforts by China and the United States on climate change will serve as an enduring legacy of the partnership between our two countries,” the White House said in a statement. “They encourage other Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to do the same, with a view to bringing the Paris Agreement into force as early as possible.”
The good news, and one of the major advantages of an earlier signing timeline, is that it will allow for deeper emission cuts and potentially the more ambitious goal of slowing global warming to increase by only 1.5 degrees Celsius as opposed to the current goal of 2.0 degrees Celsius.
Since their joint statement, “the United States led an effort in the OECD to successfully adopt the first-ever set of multilateral standards for support of coal-fired power plants using export credit, and China has been strengthening its green and low-carbon policies and regulations with a view to strictly controlling public investment flowing into projects with high pollution and carbon emissions both domestically and internationally,” the White House stated.
It remains the main goal for all of the participating nations is that, by the end of this century, there will be a world economy that is carbon free.