Xi, Obama commit to climate deal

Chinese President Xi Jinping (center), US President Barack Obama (right) and Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon attend the deposit of instruments of joining the Paris Agreement in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, Sept 3, 2016. Photo: Xinhua

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday outlined new plans for expanding their joint efforts on climate change, showcasing one of the few areas of agreement in an otherwise tense relationship between the two leaders.

U.S. officials detailed the agreement reached by Messrs. Obama and Xi ahead of what is likely to be their final meeting before a new president enters the White House in January.

The new steps include formal adoption by both the U.S. and China of the international climate-change agreement reached in Paris in December 2015, as well as a road map for achieving emissions reductions in commercial aircraft and for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, a potent group of gases that are linked to climate change but aren’t covered by the Paris agreement.

The moves cap three years of efforts by Messrs. Obama and Xi to advance climate-change initiatives, following their first meeting as presidents in 2013.

The White House has touted the climate cooperation as a vital form of leadership the two biggest economies have sought to demonstrate for the rest of the world, where developed and developing countries often are at odds. The administration has given a high priority to climate collaboration with Beijing at a time when the two countries have struggled to see eye-to-eye on other economic issues, such as trade, investment rules and exchange rates. The countries have also faced tensions over military affairs and cybersecurity.

“This is not a fight that any one country, no matter how powerful, can take alone,” Mr. 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 Paris deal is the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement, but it will only come into force legally after it is ratified by at least 55 countries, CBS Radio News reporter Shannon Van Sant reports from Hong Kong.

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.

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 it 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.”

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