World / Science & Health

Chinese legislature ratifies Paris climate change agreement

Reuters, AP

China’s parliament on Saturday ratified the Paris agreement on climate change, said Xinhua, the state news agency, which could help put the pact into force by as early as the end of the year.

The standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress voted to adopt “the proposal to review and ratify the Paris Agreement” at the closing meeting of a weeklong session, the news agency said.

The announcement came as leaders from the world’s 20 biggest economies, the Group of 20, began to arrive in the city of Hangzhou for a summit on Sunday and Monday.

The Group of 20, a collection of industrial and emerging-market nations, is responsible for about 80 percent of global carbon emissions.

Opening his final trip to Asia, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to join Chinese leader Xi Jinping in announcing their countries are formally taking part in a historic global climate deal.

The United States, the second-biggest emitter, is also set to ratify the agreement in a bid to put the deal into legal force before the end of the year.

Obama departed for Hangzhou on Friday and was to meet with Xi on Saturday ahead of the summit. Environmental groups and experts tracking global climate policy said they expected the two leaders would jointly enter the sweeping emissions-cutting deal reached last year in Paris. Unlikely partners on addressing global warming, the U.S. and China have sought to use their collaboration to ramp up pressure on other countries to take concrete action as well.

Entering the climate agreement has been an intricate exercise in diplomatic choreography. The White House announced Obama would speak about climate change shortly after landing in the eastern city.

The deal was reached in December, and the U.S., China and many others signed it in April, on Earth Day. Even the third step — formally participating in the deal — doesn’t bring it into force in the U.S. or China. That won’t happen until a critical mass of polluting countries joins.

Nearly 200 countries agreed in Paris in December on a binding global compact to slash greenhouse gas emissions and keep global temperature increases to “well below” 2 degrees C.

Experts have said the temperature target is already in danger of being breached, with the U.N. weather agency saying that 2016 is on course to be the warmest since records began, overtaking last year.

While 180 countries have now signed the agreement, 55 nations — covering at least 55 percent of global emissions — need to formally ratify the treaty to put it into legal effect.

Before China, 23 nations had ratified it — including North Korea — but they collectively accounted for just 1.08 percent of global emissions, according to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

China is responsible for just over 20 percent of global emissions, while the United States covers another 17.9 percent. Russia accounts for 7.5 percent, with India churning out 4.1 percent.

As for its commitments to the climate deal, the U.S. pledged to cut its emissions 26 percent to 28 percent over the next 15 years, compared with 2005 levels. China vowed that its emissions, which are still growing, will top out by 2030.

Countries that ratify the deal will have to wait for three years after it has gone into legal force before they can begin the process of withdrawing from it, according to the agreement signed in Paris last year.

Aiming to build on previous cooperation, the U.S. and China have also been discussing a global agreement on aviation emissions, though there’s some disagreement about what obligations developing countries should face in the first years. The aviation issue is expected to be on the agenda for Obama’s meeting with Xi, along with ongoing efforts to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, another greenhouse gas.

The alliance on climate has been a rare bright spot between the U.S. and China in recent years, a relationship otherwise characterized by tensions over China’s emergence as a key global power. Washington has been deeply concerned about China’s territorial ambitions in waters far off its coast, while Beijing looks warily at Obama’s efforts to expand U.S. influence in Asia, viewing it as an attempt to contain China’s rise.