By Valerie Volcovici
The United States and China have confirmed that they will sign the Paris climate change agreement in New York on April 22, a move that officials hope will help the accord enter into force this year.
The world's two biggest greenhouse gas emitters issued a joint presidential statement on Thursday (local time) in which they called on other countries to sign the accord next month "with a view to bringing the Paris Agreement into force as early as possible".
Leaders from nearly 200 countries forged the landmark agreement to transform the world's fossil fuel-driven economy on December 12 after four years of fraught negotiations.
But the Paris climate agreement needs at least 55 countries, representing at least 55 percent of global emissions, to formally accede to it before it can enter into force.
Todd Stern, the US climate envoy who helped broker the deal in Paris, said hitting that threshold as soon as possible would benefit countries that were vulnerable to climate change.
"The best thing that can happen for them is to get this agreement going and get it into force," he said.
Stern has stepped down from his role as the chief US climate negotiator, and will be replaced by his former deputy, Jonathan Pershing, on April 1.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier this month that he expected 120 or more countries would sign the accord at the April 22 ceremony at its New York headquarters.