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U.S. and China ratify Paris Agreement at start of the 2016 G20 Summit

Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping declare that the U.S and China will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020



Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping 
shake hands and ratify the Paris Agreement
Source: CNN 

The two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world are the U.S. and China. In a historic move, both countries ratified the Paris Agreement to set the stage for the annual G20 summit. American President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping happily struck the climate deal despite recent military and political tension in the South China Sea. While the Paris Agreement was only written less than a year ago, it has tremendous implications for climate change. Ratification of the Paris Agreement serves as a country's promise to a United Nations committee to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by a certain amount by 2020. 


As countries industrialize, they emit greater levels of greenhouse gases


As seen in the figure below, China has been the world's largest emitter of carbon-based pollutants since around 2004. Due to efforts in recent years, China has maintained roughly the same level of emissions since around 2010. This recent history sets the precedent for China's ratification of the G20 summit. China's government is pushing the public policy of 负责任大国 (fu zeren daguo) a great nation takes responsibility) when it concerns itself with climate change. It does so not only in the name of international pressure but in order to protect its own citizens from environmental problems.




Figure. National Carbon Emission for Top Four Emitters
Source: Li, Anthony H. F. 
It is known that a country's economy and manufacturing sector are closely related to its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. China has become increasingly developed over the last century, leading to air pollution and climate change concerns. Fortunately, China has clear intentions to move toward a cleaner future for its citizens and the world. Prior to the G20 summit, the Chinese government released its own detailed greenhouse gas and carbon emissions reduction plan. The Chinese government has set these expectations for emissions reduction by 2030.


This ratification could influence other G20 nations to agree to the Paris deal

The leadership demonstrated by China and America should be instrumental in influencing other nations to ratify. As other countries witness the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases sign the Paris agreement, they will feel pressure to do the same. India has recently been making plans to ratify. This is expected to happen within the next month, according to BBC news. This would be a monumental success for the Paris Agreement since the three largest emitters of greenhouse gases would have agreed to reduce emissions. 

Many believe ratification to be a step in the right direction. With that knowledge, it is no surprise that mitigation of greenhouse gases is a major motivator of change in politics and industry. With the two largest national emitters of greenhouse gases ratifying the agreement, the other countries in the G20 are expected to follow suit.




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