U.S., China Seek to Prod Nations by Signing Climate Accord Early

  • Two nations announce they will sign Paris accord on April 22
  • Pledge puts deal two-thirds of way toward formal enactment

Both the U.S. and China will formally sign a landmark multinational climate accord on April 22, the very first day they can, paving the way for early enforcement of the deal to slash greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

The move, announced on Thursday in a joint statement from U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, seeks to preserve momentum from the agreement, which 195 countries agreed to in principle during a summit in Paris last December.

For the agreement to take effect, it must be signed by at least 55 countries accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change. Combined, the U.S. and China emit 40 percent of the world’s emissions, so their early signatures put the deal more than two-thirds of the way toward its activation threshold. The move is seen nudging other countries to follow suit.

"Our hope is that as that process proceeds, you will see growing momentum toward having this agreement enter into force early and swiftly," White House senior adviser Brian Deese said. "That will help build the critical momentum that we all saw coming out of Paris around sending a strong durable market signal to the global economy that we’re moving in the direction of low-carbon solutions."

Paris Goals

The Paris deal lays out goals to curb temperature increases by limiting the carbon dioxide emissions produced when fossil fuels are burned. It also would establish ways to measure and verify emissions, with pledged reductions expected to ratchet upward over decades.

In the joint statement issued Thursday, the U.S. and China also pledged to prioritize the development of a low-carbon economy and accelerate development of clean energy. And they said they were committed to reaching "successful outcomes" on other climate projects, including international Montreal Protocol negotiations to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas used in many air conditioners and refrigerators.

The two countries also said they would pursue "a global market-based measure" tackling greenhouse gas emissions from commercial aircraft. The U.S. and 22 other countries agreed to standards aimed at throttling aviation emissions in February.

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