China Ratifies Climate Change Accord Ahead of Obama Meeting

  • China’s legislature ratified the Paris Agreement on Saturday
  • China and the U.S. may make an announcement when leaders meet

China’s legislature ratified a major international accord to combat climate change, paving the way for President Xi Jinping and U.S. counterpart Barack Obama to jointly announce the agreement at a meeting ahead of the G-20 leaders’ summit in Hangzhou. 

Lawmakers in Beijing voted to adopt "the proposal to review and ratify the Paris Agreement" at the closing meeting Saturday of a bimonthly session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Xi Jinping during the opening ceremony of the B20 Summit ahead of the G20 on Sept. 3

Photographer: Aly Song/Pool/Getty Images

When Xi and Obama meet later Saturday they may make an announcement on the Paris deal, forged last year to reduce carbon emissions. 

Their two nations together account for nearly 40 percent of global emissions, and their ratification of the accord would mark a significant step toward its final completion. The agreement provides for it to be implemented when countries producing 55 percent of global emissions ratify it.

Obama’s meeting with Xi at the G-20 summit would represent a high-water mark of the U.S. leader’s largely frustrated economic and military rebalancing to Asia. The leaders, in their eighth face-to-face meeting, are expected to discuss differences on issues such as maritime navigation, economic policy making and human rights, according to a State Department briefing on Aug. 30 in Washington.

“Climate will be a centerpiece of our agenda” at the G-20, Obama said Wednesday during a stop in Hawaii en route to Hangzhou. “Joint U.S.-Chinese leadership was part of the reason that we were able to get Paris done.”

For Obama, ratification would be the culmination of a years-long diplomatic effort to win over China for a joint effort to fight climate change, and an opportunity to cement his legacy on the issue.

Follow-through on any agreement, however, will depend on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has pledged to “cancel” and renegotiate the agreement if he wins, while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has endorsed the pact.

— With assistance by Keith Zhai

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