By Paul Davis and Andrew Westgate

China, along with leaders from more than 150 countries, today signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement in New York.

New York Signing Update

Following final negotiation on December 12, 2015, today marked the first day that countries could formally sign the Paris Agreement. At the United Nations headquarters in New York, over 150 countries attended a signing ceremony to mark the occasion.

The Paris Agreement will be open for signature until April 21, 2017 and will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions have formally signed. Today was a significant step as large greenhouse gas emitters such as China, the US, and India each signed. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had said in March that he expected more than 120 countries to sign the accord on April 22. Obligations under the Paris Agreement will commence in 2020.

China Leads Low Carbon Future

China became one of the first countries to confirm that it would sign the Paris Agreement on April 22. It issued a joint presidential statement with the US in March in which both nations called on other countries to sign the accord in April “with a view to bringing the Paris Agreement into force as early as possible”.

China has an ambitious climate policy, as demonstrated by its 13th Five-Year Plan and the launch of its green bond pilot initiative. China is targeting reductions of 60 percent in carbon emissions based on 2015 levels by 2030. It has stated that its annual energy use shall peak before the year 2030. These targets, however, must go hand-in-hand with aspirations of 6 percent economic growth over the same period.

Today’s signature is further evidence of China’s commitment to the green economy.

Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli represented China at the signing ceremony. Zhang said that: “Going forward, China will continue to participate in and promote international efforts against climate change” and he emphasised the need to bring the Paris Agreement into force sooner rather than later.

China’s signature today is an important development for global climate change. China is, and will continue to be, an active and crucial participant in setting the dialogue and goals of the future low carbon economy.

This post was prepared with the assistance of Glen Jeffries in the New York office of Latham & Watkins.

Read more on China’s plan for a greener economy:

China’s 13th Five-Year Plan – Planning for a Greener Economy

China Revises Hazardous Substances Restriction Laws

China’s NDRC Issues New Carbon Trading Guidance

China Progresses with Increased Environmental Accountability for Industry and Government Authorities

China Gives Green Light for Green Bonds

What Multinationals Need to Know About China’s Amended Environmental Protection Law