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UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on rich nations to “disarm the climate time bomb” by moving toward a goal of achieving as much carbon neutrality as possible by 2040, most now by 2050. Presenting a capstone report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impact and trajectory of global warming, Guterres offered a blunt assessment of the challenge of preventing climate catastrophe.

“Humanity is on thin ice, and that ice is melting fast,” the UN chief said in a video message as the IPCC expert group released its latest report, which he likened to “a survival guide for humanity”.

Guterres said the world still has time to limit the average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times, but that would require “a quantum leap in climate action” by all countries in all sectors.

“It starts with parties hitting the fast-forward button on their Net Zero deadline,” Guterres said, but acknowledged that countries have varying degrees of responsibility and ability to change course.

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Rich countries should commit to achieving as much carbon neutrality as possible by 2040, he said, “a limit that they should all respect.”

As things stand now most rich countries have set their targets to 2050 but some are more ambitious, such as Finland (2035), or Germany and Sweden (2045).

Without naming any specific countries, he said leaders of emerging economies should commit to reaching net zero as much as possible by 2050. Major countries in this category have set more distant targets such as China (2060) and India (2070).

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Flood waters surround homes and vehicles in Pajaro, Monterey County, California, March 13, 2023.

Noah Berger/AP

Guterres, who will hold a climate action summit in September, reiterated the role of the Group of 20 – the world’s largest economies and Europe – which together account for 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is the moment for all G20 members to come together in a joint effort, leveraging their resources and scientific capabilities as well as their proven and affordable technologies through the public and private sectors to make carbon neutrality a reality by 2050,” said Guterres.

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