WASHINGTON, April 1 (UPI) -- Environmental advocacy groups praised pledges made by the U.S. and Chinese governments on climate change initiatives as a breakthrough for momentum.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in Washington, D.C., to collaborate on climate change by signing agreements outlined last year at a U.N.-backed summit in Paris. The leaders of the two largest economies said they were encouraging others to follow suit in the view of bringing the agreement into force as soon as possible.
Planned for signing April 22, David Waskow, the climate director for the World Resources Institute, said the bilateral commitment was an important step toward gathering greater support for the agreement.
"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," he said in an emailed statement.
An agreement signed by 195 national leaders in December called for all parties to make strides to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level necessary to curb global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Under the terms of the agreement, wealthier nations like China and the United States are expected to help finance the shift to a low-carbon economy from poor developing nations.
The joint statement signed in Washington said both sides are committed to working bilaterally with other counties to help advance their climate initiatives.
In the United States, federal data show 2016 will be the first time in history natural gas overtakes coal as the main source of electricity. Apart from federal considerations on cleaner power sources, a government report said coal has started to drop off in favor of natural gas because of lower costs.
A National Economic and Social Development plan outlined by the Chinese government in early March described a series of measures aimed at controlling air, water and soil pollution. The five-year plan calls for stricter rules on energy conservation and a stronger focus on industries associated with environmental protection.
"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 joint statement read.