WASHINGTON, DC, March 31, 2016 (ENS) – On April 22, Earth Day, the United States and China will both sign and join the global agreement to combat climate change, Paris Climate Agreement, on the first day it is open for signatures.

On the sidelines of the fourth Nuclear Security Summit held near the White House today, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping announced that they will both sign the Paris Agreement on April 22 and will formally join the agreement as soon as possible this year.

“The joint efforts by China and the United States on climate change will serve as an enduring legacy of the partnership between our two countries,” the two leaders said in a joint statement.

Obama, Xi

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at an APEC meeting 2014 (Photo courtesy VOA)

President Obama expressed his pleasure in the “new steps to accelerate implementation of the historic Paris climate change agreement” that the two countries are taking.

“Our cooperation and our joint statements were critical in arriving at the Paris agreement, and our two countries have agreed that we will not only sign the agreement on the first day possible, but we’re committing to formally join it as soon as possible this year. And we urge other countries to do the same,” said Obama.

President Xi said, “I’m glad that this time the two sides have issued the third joint statement on climate change, and we have announced that we will both sign the Paris agreement on April the 22nd.”

“I wish to reiterate that it is a priority for China’s foreign policy to work with the United States to build a new model of major country relations, and to realize no conflicts or confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” said the Chinese leader.

The Paris Agreement establishes a long-term, worldwide framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. It will take effect once 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions formally commit to the low carbon measures it outlines.

As the world’s two largest polluters, the United States and China account for 40 percent of global emissions. With their joint commitment to the Paris Agreement, the threshold for implementation is well within reach.

The Paris Agreement puts in place the framework to achieve the emissions reductions the world needs to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

In their joint statement, issued today, the Presidents recognize that “the Paris Agreement marks a global commitment to tackling climate change and a strong signal of the need for a swift transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient economies.”

The Presidents are also committed to working bilaterally and with other countries to achieve successful outcomes this year in related efforts, including on a global market-based measure for addressing greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and on an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that better controls climate-change-inducing hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.

To accelerate clean energy innovation and deployment, Presidents Xi and Obama will work together to implement the goals of the Mission Innovation initiative announced at the Paris conference and carry forward the work of the Clean Energy Ministerial.

They expressed support for a successful G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, China this year, including strong climate and clean energy outcomes, and called on the G-20 countries to engage constructively in international cooperation on energy and climate change.

They pledged to continue to deepen and broaden bilateral cooperation through the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group, the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center.

Environmental groups are pleased with the cooperation on climate between the largest developing economy and the largest developed economy.

David Waskow, International Climate Director, World Resources Institute, said, “The joint statement that the United States and China will sign and join the Paris Agreement as early as possible this year sends an extremely powerful signal. This demonstrates continued momentum from Paris and an ongoing commitment by the United States and China to collaborate and drive climate action forward on the global stage.”

The two presidents also agreed to cooperate on work towards a nuclear-free Korean peninsula amidst concerns about North Korea’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

The summit continues Friday with a special session on preventing the Islamic State and other extremists from obtaining nuclear materials and attacking urban areas.

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