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COP21 nears the legal launchpad as US joins China in Saturday ratification

President Obama bypassed Congress to announce the US ratification of the Paris agreement on climate change, bringing the world’s two largest emitters into the fold of binding climate change targets and emissions reduction on Saturday to lead other smaller signatories “by example”.

China’s top legislature hours earlier voted to ratify the Paris agreement on climate change, binding the world’s largest carbon emitter to the COP21 commitments on climate change management.

Overnight the number of COP21 signatories has jumped from countries accounting from near 1% of global emissions to near 40% of global emissions. The US is responsible under 18% of global carbon emissions, below China’s 20%. The Paris treaty needs to get 55 parties responsible for 55% of global emissions behind it in order to come into legal force.

“We have a saying in America that you need to put your money where your mouth is. And when it comes to combating climate change that is what we’re doing,” Obama told reporters ahead of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China.

“A low carbon future is the way the world is heading,” he said.

195 countries put their signature to December’s Paris agreement to restrict global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial temperatures. Stock-taking and mitigation of carbon emissions are two of the key pillars of the December agreement.

Non-profit science and policy institute Climate Analytics estimates 57 countries making up nearly 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions will have ratified the treaty by the end of this year. By the start of this month, 24 countries representing only around 1% of the world’s emissions had already ratified.

Global emissions reduction efforts have so far been largely concentrated on industrial and utility sectors, with efforts to tackle the transport emissions which supply up to a third of the world’s carbon emissions late to the table. The US is already the world’s largest consumer of biofuels in its road transport fleet, with ethanol substituting 10% of the country’s gasoline and biodiesel and renewable diesel consumption growing rapidly. While the RFS2 biofuels program has carbon saving thresholds built into its qualifying rules for biofuels and their constituent feedstocks, individual states such as California have ahead with their own carbon cutting programmes for road transport fuel which have gained acclaim domestically and overseas and already spawned imitators.

MS – 03/09/2016

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