UNITED NATIONS - The United States is on track to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement despite President Donald Trump's plan to withdraw from the accord, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday.
Guterres said emissions-cutting plans put in motion by American businesses, regional governments and cities meant that the goals set by the former U.S. administration, which signed the deal in 2016 were within reach.
"We have seen in the cities, and we have seen in many states, a very strong commitment to the Paris agreement, to the extent that some indicators are moving even better than in the recent past," Guterres told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.
"There are expectations that, independently of the position of the administration, the U.S. might be able to meet the commitments made in Paris as a country."
Greenhouse gas emissions
Under the deal, the administration of former president Barack Obama pledged to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Nearly 200 countries and parties have signed the landmark agreement after intense negotiations in Paris, where all nations made voluntary carbon-cutting pledges running to 2030.
The agreement is aimed at limiting global warming to within two degrees Celsius, but Guterres warned that more action was needed by 2020 to reach that goal.
Withdrawal notice due in 2019
Trump faced condemnation when he announced in June 2017 that the United States was pulling out, painting the accord as a "bad deal" for the U.S. economy.
Under the agreement, the United States can formally give notice that it plans to withdraw in 2019, three years after the accord came into force, and the withdrawal would become effective in 2020.
Describing climate change as "the most systemic threat to humankind," Guterres said recent data on extreme weather events showed that "2017 was filled with climate chaos."
"2018 has already brought more of the same," he said. "Food security, health, stability itself all hang in the balance."
Guterres is planning to host a major summit next year to take stock of progress in implementing the climate deal, but it remains unlikely that Trump would attend.
Plan to loosen emissions, fuel standards
Though Guterres said the U.S. is on track to meet Paris climate agreement targets, the Trump administration still has the ability to change current regulations.
The New York Times reported Thursday, citing an Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman, that the White House was expected to push a plan to loosen standards on emissions and vehicle fuel economy standards, undercutting the previous administration's bid to fight climate change.
Such a move would represent a win for automakers, potentially paving the way to lower the bar for standards globally.