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China and US ratification ‘could see climate deal start this year’

China and the US have ratified the Paris climate deal, raising the possibility that it could come into force as soon as this year.

The two countries said they had ratified the deal on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hangzou, China, in which green finance has featured prominently on the agenda.

The landmark Paris agreement has no official timeline for when it was expected to kick in, but it had been widely expected that it could take as long as 2020 before it became operational.

However, having the prompt support of the world’s two biggest polluters means it is now possible that the agreement may be ratified this year or in early 2017, according to analysts at HSBC’s climate change centre of excellence.

The agreement will enter into force 30 days after 55 countries covering 55% of global greenhouse gases (GHGs) offcially recognise it.

“These two GHG heavyweights bring the tally to 26 Parties covering 39.1% of GHGs,” said the HSBC analysts. They added that a further 25 countries accounting for 16.6% of GHGs have pledged to ratify this year, and 20 more said they will ratify “soon”.

“We think there will be a flurry of new additions in the run-up to 21 September as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosts a ratification ceremony in New York.”

Zoe Knight, head of HSBC’s climate change centre, added that a speedier ratification than had previously been expected would not necessarily increase up the pace of climate action, but it would “provide a massive external signal for investment flows”.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), added: “The earlier that Paris is ratified and implemented in full, the more secure that future will become.”

Mindy Lubber, President of NGO Ceres, said: “Today’s action sends a powerful signal to the markets that the shift to a low-carbon, clean energy economy is now accelerating. The rest of the world’s countries should take notice.”

The two countries also back action on HFCs and airlines

The US and China also said they were supportive of airlines tackling their emissions and reiterated their commitment to an agreement under the Montreal Protocol to phase down hydrofluorocarbons, a potent climate gas.

The two countries said they were working together to secure a comprehensive and ambitious amendment of the Montreal Protocol when governments meet in Kigali, Rwanda in October. They called for an early “freeze date” under such an agreement.

Meanwhile, they also announced backing for action on aviation emissions under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at its assembly this month.

Under ICAO, governments will decide whether to agree a market-based mechanism to reduce greenhouse gases from aircraft.
China and the US pledged to be early participants in a voluntary pilot phase of such a scheme.

Nathaniel Keohane, Vice President of NGO the Environmental Defense Fund, said: “”Civil aviation is one of the world’s fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution. A market-based measure to cap aviation emissions from 2020 could prevent 8 billion tonnes of emissions in the first two decades alone — but only if the agreement covers a sufficient share of the growth in global emissions.

“Today’s leader-level commitment by the US and China to a strong deal in ICAO, along with China’s indication that it expects to participate as soon as the measure takes effect in 2021, is a good start toward closing the gap between the aviation industry’s future growth and what’s necessary to avoid the worst effects of a warming climate.”

Peter Cripps

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