Energy & Environment

US, China pledge swift action on Paris climate deal

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The United States and China are pledging to sign last year’s Paris climate change agreement as early as possible.

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Thursday that their representatives will approve the deal on April 22, Earth Day. It’s also the earliest date on which countries can sign it.

Though the agreement was crafted in December, it does not enter into force until 55 countries with at least 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are on board.

“By making this announcement today that both the U.S. and China will formally join as soon as possible this year, you now have countries representing close to 40 percent of global emissions committing to join quickly,” top Obama adviser Brian Deese told reporters Thursday.

“That commitment will help build momentum for expeditious entry into force, which is something that both our countries, through this joint statement, are calling for, and what we will both be working together and respectively to try to encourage going forward.”

Even after enough countries sign it, the greenhouse gas emissions cuts each nation submitted to form the deal do not have the force of international law.

Obama and other world leaders demanded the emissions be unbinding because the deal would then be a treaty requiring approval from two-thirds of the Republican-led Senate, an unlikely scenario.

Nonetheless, Obama pledged that the United States would cut its emissions by 26 percent by 2025 compared with 2005 levels.

China said its greenhouse gas output would peak by 2030 and fall after that, the first time China has agreed to limit emissions at all.

The Obama administration has kept moving on the Paris deal even after the Supreme Court in February halted the administration’s rule limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, the main pillar of Obama’s pledge for the deal.

“We have, and will continue to, demonstrate that the United States has both the capacity and the tools to meet the international commitments that we have put forward,” Deese said.

“We feel confident that the Clean Power Plan is on solid legal foundations,” he continued, adding that Congress’ action last year to extend tax credits for wind and solar energy is significant in terms of greenhouse gas reductions.

The leaders made the announcement during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. The two countries have been working closely on international climate policies since first announcing their pledges together in November 2014.

Obama and Xi also agreed to work together to seek international agreement on policies to reduce planet-warming hydrofluorocarbons and get a worldwide deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from commercial airliners.

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