China and the United States formally ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change on Saturday, establishing common ground for their presidential meeting on the eve of the Group of 20 summit.
But the leaders of the two countries also discussed sensitive issues such as the South China Sea and human rights. President Xi Jinping urged the US to “play a constructive role” in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, and for the two countries to work together to reach a “reciprocal and win-win” bilateral investment treaty as soon as possible, according to Xinhua.
The White House said US President Barack Obama stressed the need for China to abide by obligations under the treaty of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
After touching down in Hangzhou, Obama joined Xi to submit documents to enter the climate agreement to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
China’s legislature approved the emissions-cutting deal earlier in the day and the US confirmed its ratification on Obama’s arrival.
It is Obama’s third visit to China and likely his last meeting with Xi as president. His trip comes as ties between the two countries have been strained by a wide range of issues, including cybersecurity, trade disputes and the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia. Ties have also been frayed by competition over their military presence in the South China Sea and deployment of a US missile system in South Korea.
In a meeting after a welcome dinner, Xi told Obama that Sino-US ties should be defined by the principle of “no conflict, no confrontation”.
“We should increase mutual trust and deepen cooperation, constructively manage our differences and maintain sustainable, healthy and stable development of ties,” Xi said.
Obama said he and Xi had “candid” exchanges on their differences over human rights, cybersecurity and maritime security.
But both leaders hailed the collaboration on climate change as a milestone. “Despite our differences on other issues, we hope our willingness to work together on this issue will inspire further ambition and further action around the world,” Obama said.
The Paris Agreement, negotiated by representatives of 195 nations last year, will go into force when at least 55 nations that produce a total of 55 per cent of global emissions join forces. Before China and the US, 23 countries had ratified the deal but those countries account for just 1 per cent of global emissions, according to the World Resources Institute.
Since the two largest economies together account for 40 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emissions, hopes are high that the agreement will take effect this year. Under the agreement, countries are required to set national targets for reducing or reining in their greenhouse gas emissions. The accord’s long-term goal is to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times.
To that end, Xi and Obama reaffirmed their commitment to establish robust market-based measures to ensure carbon-neutral growth in international aviation from 2020. They also reaffirmed their commitment to cut emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, a potent climate pollutant.