The United States and China announced Saturday that they are formally joining the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, significantly increasing the likelihood that the accord will take effect this year.
The announcement, made by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping before the start of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, adds momentum to ongoing international discussions surrounding climate change. The accord requires 55 countries to join, representing 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, before it enters into force. Together the U.S. and China represent nearly 39% of the world’s emissions. They join 24 other countries that have already signed on to the agreement, according to a count from the World Resources Institute.
The announcement is the latest in an unlikely partnership on climate change between the two countries. Chinese opposition to strong global warming measures, at least in part, prevented effortsto reach a strong climate deal in Copenhagen in 2009. But climate became an area of cooperation when Xi took office in 2013. The alignment between Obama and Xi has been credited with building support from other countries in advance of the Paris conference in 2015 that yielded the world’s strongest agreement on climate change. Climate policy experts hope that Saturday’s U.S.-China announcement will similarly encourage other countries just as other collaborative efforts have done in the past.
“Over the last several years, we have effectively demonstrated that as the world’s two largest emitters and economies, if we can come together, we can help move the world forward on combating climate change,” said Brian Deese, a senior adviser to Obama, adding that the announcement brought the cooperation “full circle.”