By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and China confirmed Thursday 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 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 Dec. 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 U.S. climate envoy who helped broker the deal in Paris, said hitting that threshold as soon as possible will benefit countries that are 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 U.S. climate negotiator. He 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 expects 120 or more countries will sign the accord at the April 22 ceremony at its New York headquarters.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to sign on behalf of the United States.
India's Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar will also attend the signing of the agreement at the United Nations headquarters, the Times of India reported last week.
The U.S.-China statement also confirms that the countries will continue to cooperate on efforts to combat climate change.
Both countries said they would work jointly to ensure that a global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions in aviation at the International Civil Aviation Organization and a pact to curb HFCs, a potent greenhouse gas, are reached this year.
(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)