HANGZHOU, China, Sept 3, 2016 (AFP) – The United States and China on Saturday formally joined the Paris climate deal, with President Barack Obama hailing the accord as the “moment we finally decided to save our planet”.
The move by the world s two biggest polluters is a major step forward for the 180-nation accord, which sets ambitious goals for capping global warming and funnelling trillions of dollars to poor countries facing climate catastrophe.
Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping handed ratification documents to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who said he was now optimistic the agreement will be in force by the end of this year.
At the ceremony in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Obama said climate change would “define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other challenge”.
History would show that the Paris deal would “ultimately prove to be a turning point”, he said, “the moment we finally decided to save our planet”.
“There s an American saying, You need to put your money where your mouth is. That s what we re doing.”
The Paris agreement aims to limit global temperature increases to two degrees centigrade, and will be triggered after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, ratify it.
China is responsible for almost a quarter of the world s emissions, with the US in second place on around 15 percent, so their participation is crucial.
China s Communist-controlled parliament ratified the agreement earlier Saturday, and President Xi said the Asian giant was “solemnly” committed to the issue.
“Hopefully this will encourage other countries to take similar efforts,” he said in Hangzhou, where he is to host the G20 summit of the world s leading developed and emerging economies.
Until Saturday only 24 of the signatories had ratified the accord, including France and many island states threatened by rising sea levels but who only produce a tiny proportion of the world s emissions.
Ban said there would be a “high level” meeting in New York later this month to push more countries do so, and told the two leaders that they had “added powerful momentum” to efforts to bring the accord into force.
“I am optimistic we can do it before the end of this year.”