From Politico (Andrew Restuccia):
President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping formally committed their countries to last year’s Paris climate change agreement on Saturday, ratcheting up pressure on other nations to follow suit.
During a ceremony in the southeastern Chinese city of Hangzhou one day before the G-20 summit, the two leaders submitted documents to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that officially accept the terms of the Paris agreement.
“The challenge of climate change could define contours of future,” Obama said, according to pool reports. “Some day we may see this as the moment when we decided to save our planet.
“History will judge today’s efforts as pivotal.”
Climate, Obama said, could “define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other challenge.”
The Obama administration is hoping that the Paris deal will enter into force before the president leaves office, a move that would simultaneously bolster his environmental legacy and make it more difficult for Donald Trump to withdraw from the accord if he wins the presidency. The U.N. is hosting a summit in on Sept. 21 in New York aimed at further pressuring countries to formally ratify the deal.
Saturday’s announcement, which POLITICO earlier this week reported was in the works, comes as leaders of the world’s largest economies are arriving in China for the G-20 summit. Xi and Obama are expected to lean on the other world leaders to formally endorse the agreement. Obama is expected to meet briefly with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the summit to encourage him to quickly join the Paris deal, according to a source briefed by the administration. White House climate adviser Brian Deese told reporters that he expects Modi and Obama will “touch base” about climate change during the G-20, but officials have not announced a formal bilateral meeting between the two leaders.
The Paris accord is one step closer to entering into force with China and the U.S. formally on board. Under U.N. rules, the agreement will take effect 30 days after 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions formally approve or ratify it. Together, China and the United States account for just under 40 percent of global emissions.
About two dozen other countries have already joined the agreement, accounting for about 1 percent of global emissions. More than 30 additional nations have indicated they plan to join this year. If those countries follow through, the deal should clear the threshold required for entry into force.
Climate change is a rare bright spot in the U.S. relationship with China, which has suffered amid tension over hacking and uncertainty about trade. After repeated failures to reach consensus at international global warming negotiations, U.S. and Chinese officials embarked on a years-long diplomatic push to find common ground on climate change. The campaign culminated in November 2014 when Obama and Xi jointly announced domestic plans to limit their emissions.
“Cooperation between the U.S. and China on climate change once unimaginable, now stands as the brightest spot in their relationship. In joining the Paris Agreement in tandem, these two leaders have reconfirmed their responsibility to lead by example,” World Resources Institute President Andrew Steer said in a statement…
Scientists warn that unchecked global warming will lead to catastrophic temperature increases, sea-level rise, drought and ocean acidification. While the effects of the warming planet are already being felt around the world, experts say that countries must dramatically limit greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades to prevent disastrous climate change.
Republicans have long opposed the Paris agreement and expressed outrage at the president’s decision to join it.
“The president is again putting America’s economy and jobs at an extreme disadvantage for an international agreement that China and other countries have no incentive to abide by,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a statement. “This questionable unilateral action by the president can and should be struck down as soon as possible.”
India is the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and U.S., and its speedy decision to ratify the deal would help ensure it goes into effect this year. The country is also a key player in negotiations over an ambitious push to phase down hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners that exacerbate climate change. International negotiators are scheduled to meet in Rwanda in October to finalize an HFC-phase-down amendment to the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 international agreement that helped eliminate gases that caused a hole in the ozone layer…
Despite objections from Republicans in Congress, there appears to be little they can do to undermine the deal, given how it was structured. Deese told reporters that the use of executive agreements instead of treaties is “well established, both legally and diplomatically,” adding, “We’re very comfortable with its legal form.”