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What’s the climate deal China and the US have ratified and why is it important?

  • 05
  • 09
  • 2016

China and the US have ratified the world’s first comprehensive climate deal, following on from the Paris COP21 Conference in 2015.

Let’s delve into the detail to get a clearer understanding of why this is so important.

What is the Paris Agreement?

COP 21 sign in Paris (Christophe Ena/AP)
(Christophe Ena/AP)

At United Nations talks in Paris last December, the world’s first comprehensive climate deal was produced. The Paris Agreement will see action to curb rising temperatures by all countries.

How many countries have signed up?

The eiffel tower with a message on it 'action now' (Michel Euler/AP)
(Michel Euler/AP)

There are 180 signatories to the Paris Agreement but, until today, just 24 states had ratified the deal – accounting for 1.08% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions. The move by China and the US bolsters the agreement – bringing the total greenhouse gas emissions accounted for by signatories to 39.06%.

Why do countries need to “ratify” the deal?

For the agreement to come into force, at least 55 countries representing 55% of the world’s climate emissions must ratify the deal to drive down greenhouse gases. In doing so, they make the agreement legally binding.

Has Britain ratified the deal?

(Carl Court/PA)
(Carl Court/PA)

Not yet, but the UK is likely to make the agreement legally binding later this year, according to WWF-UK’s head of climate and energy Emma Pinchbeck. She called on the Government to quickly ratify the Agreement because the country now has the “opportunity to stand up and be counted on one of the biggest issues facing every country in the world” despite voting to leave the EU.

We’ve known about climate change for decades, why are we only doing something now?

Greenpeace protest with a large polar bear (Francois Mori/AP)
(Francois Mori/AP)

This deal has effectively been 20 years in the making. A first treaty, the Kyoto Protocol – which was adopted in 1997 – only covered the emissions of developed countries, and the US never ratified it. It runs out in 2020 and the Paris Agreement will be its successor.

Have any previous environmental treaties actually worked?

Fans against climate change (Ian Barrett/AP)
(Ian Barrett/AP)

Yes, though not for as wide-ranging an issue as climate change. The Montreal Protocol, for example, agreed in 1987 and ratified by all UN countries, has been successful in phasing out use of the chemicals which cause the ozone layer to be depleted.

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