Barack Obama kicked off what is expected to be the last trip to Asia of his presidency with a world-changing agreement. The Associated Press reports that Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed off on their respective countries' participation in the United Nations' Paris climate accord in a ceremony on Saturday.
Under the agreement, which has been ratified by the Chinese legislature, China has pledged to stop the rise of its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. The United States has a goal of cutting emissions by 26% of 2005 levels over the next 15 years. "This is not a fight that any one country, no matter how powerful, can take alone," Obama told reporters. "Someday, we may see this as the moment that we finally decided to save our planet."
In order to take effect, the Paris Accord needs to be ratified by at least 55 countries and the producers of at least 55% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. China and the U.S. are the largest producers of emissions, representing a combined 38%. Before Saturday's agreement, only 24 countries had ratified the accord, and they represented only 1% of global emissions, according to The Guardian. "Our response to climate change bears on the future of our people and the well-being of mankind,” Xi said. This agreement is being hailed by environmental groups as a sign that nations are finally moving to solve climate change.
"Never before have these two countries worked so closely together to address a global challenge," David Waskow, international climate director of Washington, D.C.,-based think tank the World Resources Institute, told The Guardian. "There’s no question that this historic partnership on climate change will be one of the defining legacies of Obama’s presidency.” Of course, Obama's work with China has just begun. The countries still have yet to come together on issues of human rights, cyber security, and China's territory disputes with other Asian countries in the South China Sea.