China has ratified the Paris global climate agreement, state news agency Xinhua reports.
China is the world’s largest emitter of harmful CO2 emissions, which cause climate change.
In December 2015, countries agreed to cut emissions enough to keep the global average rise in temperatures below 2C.
China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee adopted “the proposal to review and ratify the Paris Agreement” on September 3 at the end of a week-long session.
The Paris deal is the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement. The deal will only come into force legally after it is ratified by at least 55 countries, which between them produce 55% of global carbon emissions.
When the United States – the world’s second-largest emitter – follows China’s lead, it will bump the tally up to 40%.
Before China’s announcement, the 23 nations that had ratified the agreement accounted for just over 1% of emissions.
Analysts warn that the target of keeping temperature rises below 2C is already in danger of being breached.
For 14 consecutive months meteorologists have recorded the hottest month on record.
Average temperatures worldwide are likely to increase more in the coming years as the effect of previous carbon emissions makes itself felt.
The G20 summit in Hangzhou, starting on September 4, is a meeting of leaders from 20 countries.
President Barack Obama has now arrived in China on what is expected to be his last trip to Asia as the US president.
Barack Obama is set to announce on September 3 that the US is formally joining the Paris Agreement.
It is thought that he and China’s President Xi Jinping will make a joint announcement at a bilateral meeting.
Some 171 countries signed the Paris climate deal at United Nations headquarters on April 22 – a record number for a new international treaty.
About 15 nations, mainly small island states, had already ratified the agreement.
However, dozens of other countries were required to take this second step before the pact came into force.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Paris will shape the lives of all future generations a profound way – it is their future that is at stake.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ban Ki-moon said the planet was experiencing record temperatures: “We are in a race against time I urge all countries to join the agreement at the national level.”
“Today we are signing a new covenant for the future.”
As the world marked the 46th Earth Day, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres explained what now needed to happened.
“Most countries, though not all, need to take the signed document and go back home and go to ratification procedures that in most countries requires parliamentary discussion and decision.”
Even though the US and China represent around 38% of global emissions, getting to the 55% figure will not be that easy.
The EU, which represents just under 10% of global CO2, will take a considerable amount of time as each of the 28 members has to ratify it themselves.
That is unlikely to begin until the EU can agree how much of the carbon cutting each country will have to undertake.
Small island states were upset with this approach.
President Barack Obama is also keen to see the new agreement take effect before he leaves office next January. A little known clause in the treaty means it would take four years if a new leader, less committed to climate action, wanted to take the US out of the agreement.
Other countries are also aware of this and are watching the US election process very closely.
China said it would “finalize domestic procedures” to ratify the Paris Agreement before the G20 summit in China in September.
There is obvious delight here in New York at the record turnout of countries and leaders to sign the agreement. However, some attendees are cautioning that this is merely the first rung on a very difficult ladder.
President Barack Obama has said the climate deal reached at Paris summit is “the best chance we have to save the one planet we have”.
He said it could be a “turning point” for the world to take on the challenge of a low-carbon future.
China, the world’s biggest polluter, also hailed the deal. However, some campaigners said it did not go far enough to protect the planet.
The Paris Agreement aims to curb global warming to less than 2C (3.6F)
Nearly 200 countries took part in tense negotiations in Paris over two weeks, striking the first deal to commit all nations to cut emissions.
The agreement – which is partly legally binding and partly voluntary – will come into being in 2020.
Describing the agreement as “ambitious”, Barack Obama said: “Together, we’ve shown what’s possible when the world stands as one.
“In short, this agreement will mean less of the carbon pollution that threatens our planet and more of the jobs and economic growth driven by low-carbon investments.”
However, the US president admitted that the pact was not “perfect”.
China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua agreed that the Paris plan was not ideal. But he added that “this does not prevent us from marching historical steps forward”.
China earlier said rich developed countries needed to offer more financial support to developing countries.
Giza Gaspar Martins, the chairman of the group representing some of the world’s poorest countries, said: “It is the best outcome we could have hoped for, not just for the Least Developed Countries, but for all citizens of the world.”
However, Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now, said: “It’s outrageous that the deal that’s on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations.”
Some aspects of the agreement will be legally binding, such as submitting an emissions reduction target and the regular review of that goal.
However, the targets set by nations will not be binding under the deal struck in Paris.
World leaders are gathering in Paris amid tight security for a critical UN climate meeting.
The 21st session of the Conference of the Parties, known as COP21, starts on November 30 and will try to craft a long-term deal to limit carbon emissions.
Observers say that the recent terror attacks in Paris will increase the chances of a new agreement.
Around 40,000 people are expected to participate in the event, which runs until December 11.
The gathering of 147 heads of state and government is set to be far bigger than the 115 or so who came to Copenhagen in 2009, the last time the world came close to agreeing a long term deal on climate change.
While many leaders including Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping were always set to attend this conference, the recent violent attacks in Paris have encouraged others to come in an expression of solidarity with the French people.
Unlike at Copenhagen, the French organizers are bringing the leaders in at the start of the conference rather than waiting for them to come in at the end, a tactic which failed spectacularly in the Danish capital.
Delegates are in little doubt that the shadow cast over the city by the attacks will enhance the chances of agreement.
While the mood music around the event is very positive, there are still considerable differences between the parties.
One key problem is what form an agreement will take. The US for instance will not sign up to a legally binding deal as there would be little hope of getting it through a Senate dominated by Republicans.
“We’re looking for an agreement that has broad, really full participation,” said US lead negotiator Todd Stern at a news briefing earlier this week.
“We were quite convinced that an agreement that required actually legally binding targets would have many countries unable to participate.”
Many developing countries fundamentally disagree, as does the European Union.
“We must translate the momentum we have seen on the road to Paris into an ambitious, operational, legally binding agreement,” said EU commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, in a statement.
As well as the form there are also many issues with the content.
There are a wide range of views on what the long-term goal of the agreement should be.
While it will ostensibly come down to keeping temperatures from rising more than 2C above the pre-industrial level, how that will be represented in the text is the subject of much wrangling.
Some countries reject the very notion of 2C and say 1.5C must be the standard. Others want to talk about decarbonising the world by the middle or end of this century.
For major oil producers the very idea is anathema.
While the fact that more than 180 countries have put forward national plans to cut emissions is a major strength of this conference, there are still big questions marks about how to verify those commitments that will actually be carried out.
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