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Become a Climate Reality Leader: Share the Truth About Climate Change and Inspire Action

Climate

With talks on a global climate deal in Paris on the horizon, the world’s been asking what the U.S. will do. After all, with the U.S. being both the world’s biggest economy and second biggest polluter, the direction it takes will go a long way to setting the tone for negotiations at COP21 in Paris. Go small or unrealistic, and we could be looking at another should’ve-would’ve-could’ve in December. Go big and achievable and we’ve got a shot at a strong deal that gets us heading in the right direction.

Join an interactive webinar at 1 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, April 7: “Change Starts with You: Becoming a Climate Reality Leader.” © 2005 UN Photos/Flickr cc by CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Last week, the U.S. government gave the answer, officially submitting its initial commitment for COP21. The commitment, known as an intended nationally determined contribution, or INDC, is the culmination of a long process including everything from a historic joint agreement with China to landmark policies at home.

What’s In the United States’ initial commitment for COP21?

As expected, the U.S. committed to:

  • Reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025; and
  • Accomplishing this goal with existing policies—notably the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan and fuel economy standards for vehicles.

© 2005 UN Photos/Flickr cc by CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

So what does the U.S. INDC mean for COP21, and how is it different from past pledges?

Some Background: What Is an INDC?

An INDC is a country’s plan for action on climate change. After each country submits its INDC (the ideal deadline is Oct. 1), the UN will analyze them as a group to assess their collective impact. Countries as a whole will then include these INDCs as part of the agreement signed at COP 21 in Paris. Once inscribed in the agreement, the INDC becomes a final, nationally determined contribution (NDC).

The important part of an INDC is that it is nationally determined. The idea is that every nation knows what it can do, so countries agreed that they would allow each other to put forward their best plan for the world to see.

For a developed country like the U.S., economy-wide, absolute emissions reductions are possible—and already happening. For developing countries that have only minimal responsibility for climate change and are working to boost their populations out of poverty, this might mean a different kind of commitment—like an “intensity” target that reduces emissions per unit of GDP growth.

INDCs aren’t limited to what a country does within its borders, either. Some may include actions to help the world adapt to the impacts of climate change. Some developed countries may commit to helping developing nations build resilience to climate impacts and reduce emissions.

Ideally, each INDC is ambitious in its targets, transparent in how it gets there, and represents a fair share of the nation’s responsibility for addressing climate change, based on its historical emissions and current capabilities.

How Did the U.S. Do? 

The U.S. INDC represents the first time that the U.S. has committed to reducing carbon pollution based on real world targets with real world policies. This on its own is a very significant and positive step.

That said, there is more work to be done, and we have to keep pushing for stronger targets down the road. With renewable energy prices falling rapidly, it will soon be easier to make even deeper cuts in emissions.

We also have to keep pressing lawmakers to pass more permanent domestic legislation that would keep us on a path towards a sustainable future powered by renewable energy.

Finally, the U.S. is already providing tens of billions of dollars in disaster and resiliency finance to developing countries, in addition to the $3 billion committed to the Green Climate Fund in 2014. We have to ensure that any money put forward or mobilized by the U.S. is spent for its purpose.

Which is all to say that for a first step, the US INDC is a good one. Now it’s up to us to keep things moving forward.

How Will the U.S. INDC Affect Paris?

A strong agreement in Paris won’t happen without U.S. leadership. By submitting its INDC before March 31 and basing its commitments on existing policies, the U.S. has shown how serious it’s taking the process, encouraging others to follow suit. It also puts pressure on large emerging economies such as China and India to present their own plans with targets that represent the best of their respective capabilities.

What Can You Do to Help?

With the right pressure at home, negotiators can always raise their commitments to action before an INDC becomes a final NDC. For those of us in the U.S., it’s time to spread the word about what’s happening in Paris and build support for the steps the U.S. has already committed to—and support for going even further so we can all share a healthy and prosperous future.

What can you personally do? Building a powerful movement for change in Paris starts with spreading the word, and by becoming a Climate Reality Leader, you can learn how to share the truth about climate change and inspire action better than you ever thought possible.

Want to learn more? We’re holding an interactive webinar at 1 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, April 7: “Change Starts with You: Becoming a Climate Reality Leader.” The webinar will feature program director Mario Molina and several Climate Reality Leaders discussing what you can expect from the training and sharing stories of their work in the field.

Click here to register for the free webinar.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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