The Paris Agreement on Climate Change — United States and China will join this year

On April 22nd, national leaders will formally signal through the UN Signing Ceremony that their countries are prepared to enter the Paris Agreement into force. Earlier today, China and the United States issued a joint presidential statement indicating that both countries will formally join onto the agreement as early as possible this year.

This is a major step, because China and the US account for over one-third of global emissions. It also comes as no surprise since Chinese and American leadership to tackle emissions, improve energy efficiency and promote clean energy have been key drivers of progress on climate action in recent years. It has also led other countries to consider more ambitious climate action, and this announcement will likely do the same.

Increasing Global Momentum for Climate Action

The United States and China were among the earliest countries to submit their national climate action plans in advance of the Paris climate conference. This showed a sometimes skeptical international community that the world’s two largest emitters had clear plans for reducing emissions and for low carbon growth. By the close of the Paris Agreement, 185 nations had submitted their plans for reducing emissions and tackling climate change.

We have seen clear progress on climate action since the inception of the President’s Climate Action Plan and similar efforts in China to address climate change. Today’s announcement is really in recognition of the progress already being made, not only in the US and China, but around the world. It is the set of policies to tackle climate change that we should be applauding — for having given national leaders the confidence to step forward and commit to a strong international agreement that will address climate change for decades to come.

Drivers for Climate Action — examples from the U.S. and China

In the United States, wind and solar power are experience strong growth, with declines in energy prices, impressive job growth, and federal incentives that allow fairer competition with heavily subsidized fossil fuels. Federal policies include the Production Tax Credit for wind power and the Solar Investment Tax Credit, helping to shift American energy towards a low-carbon trajectory.

Earlier this month, China announced in its 13th Five Year Plan that it would further reduce carbon intensity between 2016 and 2020 by 18 percent, putting the country well on track to meeting its Copenhagen climate commitment for 2020. The Chinese climate negotiator has signaled that China will likely surpass the target.

In 2015, China also leapt past Germany to become the country with the highest installed solar capacity in the world, in addition to leading the world in installed wind capacity. One-fifth of China’s overall energy consumption will come from renewables by 2030. To address the need to better integrate these renewable energy resources with its grid, China has big plans for its electricity sector. This follows on recent statistics indicating that China’s coal consumption has declined for the second year in a row.

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