At a ceremony on the sidelines of a global economic summit, Obama and Xi, representing the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, delivered a series of documents to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The papers certified the U.S. and China have taken the necessary steps to join the Paris accord that set nation-by-nation targets for cutting carbon emissions.
“This is not a fight that any one country, no matter how powerful, can take alone,” Obama said of the pact. “Some day we may see this as the moment that we finally decided to save our planet.”
Xi, speaking through a translator, said he hoped other countries would follow suit and advance new technologies to help them meet their targets. “When the old path no longer takes us far, we should turn to innovation,” he said.
The formal U.S.-Chinese announcement means the accord could enter force by the end of the year, a faster than anticipated timeline. Fifty-five nations must join for the agreement to take effect. The nations that have joined must also produce at least 55 percent of global emissions.
Together, the U.S. and China produce 38 percent of the world’s man-made carbon dioxide emissions.
The United Nations’ top climate official is thanking the United States and China for ratifying the global climate agreement reached in Paris.
Patricia Espinosa said in a statement Saturday that the accord offers an “opportunity for a sustainable future for every nation and every person.” She added: “The earlier that Paris is ratified and implemented in full, the more secure that future will become.”
The agreement will take effect 30 days after the date when 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions have formally joined it. The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change says the U.S. and China joining up brings the total so far to just over 39 percent.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries are required to set national targets for reducing or reining in their greenhouse gas emissions. Those targets aren’t legally binding, but countries must report on their progress and update their targets every five years.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday that China’s legislature had voted to formally enter the agreement. In the U.S., no Senate ratification is required because the agreement is not considered a formal treaty.
Li Shuo, Greenpeace’s senior climate policy adviser, called Saturday’s declarations “a very important next step.”
If the deal clears the final hurdles, he said, “we’ll have a truly global climate agreement that will bind the two biggest emitters in the world.”
By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY and JOSH LEDERMAN
The Associated Press
Louise Watt contributed to this report.