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US, China Will Sign Paris Climate Deal in April

FILE - Morning commuters wait in line at the Tiantongyuan subway station on a smoggy day after the city issued its first ever "red alert" for air pollution, in Beijing, China, Dec. 8, 2015.

The United States and China have announced they will sign the Paris climate accord in April, a step they hope will spur other countries to formally join the landmark agreement.

In a joint presidential statement, Washington and Beijing said Thursday they hope their move will help bring the Paris agreement into force "as early as possible."

The deal was crafted by nearly 200 countries in December but does not enter into force until it is signed by at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions.

The U.S. and China, the world's top greenhouse gas emitters, will join other nations in signing the bill on April 22, Earth Day, the earliest day that countries may sign the deal.

FILE - The coal-fired Plant Scherer is shown in operation in Juliette, Georgia, June 1, 2014.
FILE - The coal-fired Plant Scherer is shown in operation in Juliette, Georgia, June 1, 2014.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said earlier this month that he expects more than 120 countries will participate in the signing ceremony at U.N. headquarters.

Accord: Goals, enforcement

The agreement aims to limit the warming of the planet to "well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels." It adds that nations should try to keep warming below 1.5 degrees.

The deal was lauded as historic, but its impact is not yet clear. The accord is legally binding, but does not include an enforcement mechanism or penalties for noncompliance.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) on Thursday praised the U.S. and Chinese presidents for signaling their intent to sign the deal quickly.

"Their joint commitment to ensure the Paris agreement enters into force 'as early as possible this year' sends a strong signal to other countries," said Alden Meyer, UCS director of strategy and policy.

The organization also praised both countries for announcing additional efforts to steer investment flows away from carbon-intensive technologies like coal and toward renewable energy alternatives.