US President Barack Obama, speaking on the eve of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, confirmed the long-awaited move was the result of weeks of intense negotiations by Chinese and American officials.
By ratifying the deal, China and the US are now practically walking the talk. Indeed they are leading by examples. And since they are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases their act should be commended across the world.
“Just as I believe the Paris agreement will ultimately prove to be a turning point for our planet, I believe that history will judge today’s efforts as pivotal,” said Obama.
He added: “Where there is a will and there is a vision and where countries like China and the United States are prepared to show leadership and to lead by example, it is possible for us to create a world that is more secure, more prosperous and more free than the one that was left for us.”
The Chinese President Xi Jinping said: “Our response to climate change bears on the future of our people and the well-being of mankind.”
Obama said the joint announcement showed how the world’s two largest economies were capable of coming together to fight climate change.
“Despite our differences on other issues we hope that our willingness to work together on this issue will inspire greater ambition and greater action around the world,” he said.
If the Paris agreement comes into force this year as hoped, it means the nearly 200 governments party to it will become obliged to meet emissions-cutting pledges made before the deal last December.
For example, the EU has a “national determined contribution” of cutting emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 on 1990 levels, and the US by up to 28 per cent by 2025 compared with 2005.
The deal coming into force would also commit the countries to aspire to keep temperatures below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – a tall task and one that will require those country pledges to be ramped up – and for rich countries to continue giving climate aid to poorer countries beyond 2020.
The Paris agreement, sealed last December after two weeks of frantic negotiations, must be ratified by 55 countries, representing 55 per cent of global emissions, in order to come into force.
The news that the world’s top two emitters – who are together responsible for about 38 per cent of emissions – ratified the deal was therefore a major step towards achieving that.
Indeed, the world should be saved from the impacts of climate change. Evidence across the globe starkly shows how climate change has affected humanity.
An article elsewhere in this edition mentions visible impacts of climate change in Africa as deforestation, flooding, drought, soil erosion, coastal storms and changing weather patterns.
In sub-Saharan Africa, according to the article, where climate change is aggravating poverty, women are disproportionately affected because of their close connections to the environment.
In addition to their involvement in agriculture, rural women are responsible for household chores, particularly the fetching of water and energy sources, including charcoal and firewood, for cooking and heating.
Today China and the US should be applauded for their bold action to ratify the Paris climate change agreement.
Before the ratification of the deal by the US and China, only 24 countries – responsible for about 1 per cent of global emissions – had ratified the agreement, while 180 had signed it.