U.S. and China joining Paris Agreement demonstrates global momentum to address climate change urgently

Statement by Nathaniel Keohane, Vice President, Global Climate, Environmental Defense Fund

September 3, 2016
Jennifer Andreassen, +1-202-572-3387, jandreassen@edf.org
(September 3, 2016) China and the United States today continued their joint leadership on addressing global climate change, announcing progress on three of the world’s top priorities for climate action this year. In a meeting among President Obama, President Xi, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the eve of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, both countries formally joined the Paris Agreement. In advance of the meeting of the UN’s aviation agency (ICAO) at the end of this month, the two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to securing adoption of a robust market-based measure to ensure carbon-neutral growth in international aviation from 2020, with China indicating that it expects to participate in the program’s initial phase starting in 2021. The countries also reiterated their commitment to an agreement under the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs, a potent climate pollutant, and jointly called for an early “freeze date” under such an agreement.
“Continued global momentum on climate action depends on strong leadership by the United States and China, the world’s top two emitters by a large margin. Today’s joint announcement represents important progress — but also highlights where continued leadership will be critical.
“Nearly two years ago, the early announcement of emissions reductions targets by China and the United States helped to catalyze broad support for the landmark Paris climate agreement adopted in December 2015.  Today’s action will play a similar role, as U.S-China leadership inspires other countries to formally join the agreement and do their part to ensure that it enters into force this year.  With the United States and China together accounting for nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the world just got much closer to the 55% threshold necessary for the agreement to take effect.
“Civil aviation is one of the world’s fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution.  A market-based measure to cap aviation emissions from 2020 could prevent 8 billion tons of emissions in the first two decades alone — but only if the agreement covers a sufficient share of the growth in global emissions.
“Today’s leader-level commitment by the U.S. and China to a strong deal in ICAO, along with China’s indication that it expects to participate as soon as the measure takes effect in 2021, is a good start toward closing the gap between the aviation industry’s future growth and what’s necessary to avoid the worst effects of a warming climate. Participation by China as well as other countries with significant aviation footprints – such as Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Brazil – will be crucial to ensuring environmental integrity and avoiding market-distorting loopholes. As we enter the home stretch to the ICAO Assembly, concerted climate diplomacy by the U.S. and China will be vital to secure broad participation from their key aviation partners.
“The meeting of the leaders of the world’s major economies is being convened with the theme of building ‘Towards an Innovative, Invigorated, Inter-connected and Inclusive World Economy.’  For the global climate, these same characteristics as embodied in both the Paris Agreement and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s approach to greenhouse gases are key to a safe climate future.”

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