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UN Chief: U.S. must halve emissions (in relation to 2010 levels) to galvanize global climate action

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres wants the United States to commit this week to at least halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 — a move he said could unlock similar action from the world’s other large emitters.

The United States, the world’s biggest economy and second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, will host a virtual climate change summit on April 22-23. Washington has urged world leaders to use the event as an opportunity to pledge more ambitious emissions cuts.

Guterres said the White House’s own pledge needed to set the bar high.

“My expectation is that the United States will be able to present a reduction of emissions for 2030, in relation to 2010 levels, above 50%,” Guterres told Reuters in an interview.

“If it happens, I have no doubt that it will have very important consequences in relation to Japan, in relation to China, in relation to Russia — in relation to other areas of the world that have not yet entirely defined these levels,” he said.

The White House is widely expected to unveil a target to cut emissions at least 50% by 2030, from 2005 levels. That would be equivalent to a 47% reduction by 2030 when compared with 2010 levels, according to research firm the Rhodium Group.

With climate change already worsening heat waves, strengthening hurricanes and making wildfires more ferocious, Guterres called this week’s summit a “make it or break it” moment for climate action.

Scientists say global emissions must plummet this decade and reach net zero by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in order to prevent cataclysmic climate impacts.

“The worst risk is that we don’t reach 1.5 degrees as a limit, that we go over it, and that we precipitate the world into a catastrophic situation,” he said, urging all major emitters to set targets for drastic emissions reductions this decade.