By Chris Mazzacane, International News Writer
After months of negotiations and internal debate, the United States and China announced earlier this week that they will formally ratify the Paris agreement. The historic agreement was negotiated by a multitude of nations last fall, but support from individual countries has varied greatly.
China and the United States are the world’s two biggest polluters, so many experts and delegations were skeptical of the prospects of a successful agreement when the two giants initially shied away from participating. Their ratification signals a major turning point and is particularly noteworthy as it came just days before the G20 Summit in China.
The agreement received high praise and wholehearted commitment from the presidents of both countries with Barack Obama calling it “a turning point for the world” and Chinese President Xi Jinping promising “to adhere to a basic national policy of saving resources and protecting the environment.” According to the Guardian, Ban Ki-Moon, the U.N. Secretary General, is hopeful that these words will translate into policy and galvanize still hesitant nations.
As reported by Al Jazeera, the accord has been signed by over 200 states but only 23 have ratified the document, accounting for approximately one percent of global carbon emissions. This is still a long way from the 55 ratifications the agreement needs to go into legal effect. Experts are hoping that the example of China and the United States will encourage other states to take action.
The timing of these ratifications is very important as the US and China ratified the agreement right before the G20 summit in Hangzhou. G20 nations are responsible for approximately 80% of the world’s carbon output. Without support from these major polluters, the Paris agreement will change nothing. The world’s two biggest polluters ratifying the document in China the day before the G20 Summit puts pressure on their counterparts to do the same. It is expected that the agreement will be discussed at length throughout the course of the summit.
The primary goal of the agreement is to keep the global temperature rise beneath two degrees Celsius. Scientists agree that once warming goes beyond that, there will be no turning back and major ecological harm will follow. Though China and the United States have sparked renewed optimism, environmental groups and scientists remain cautious. 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 13th print edition.
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