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France Approves Long-Awaited Landmark Climate Bill

Climate

The French government has approved its long-awaited energy bill, clearing the way for it to go before Parliament this autumn and be ratified in 2015. This is a major step for the nation that will be hosting the 2015 UN climate summit, where a new global climate deal is expected to be agreed.

With the new energy bill, France joins the ranks of other nations taking strong climate action and committing targets to law. Photo credit: 350.org

The French bill includes targets to cut fossil fuel and nuclear energy use and boost renewables, and could help mobilize €10 billion of investment and create thousands of jobs, according to the government. France joins a host of other EU nations and major economies in announcing such legislation. While the ambitious targets have been welcomed by NGOs, they warn that the government must now “provide the impetus” and mobilize even more financing to ensure the ambitious targets are implemented. Others have pointed out that nuclear energy remains a lynchpin of France’s energy policy.

With the new energy bill, France joins the ranks of other nations taking strong climate action and committing targets to law. In Europe in recent months Denmark has ratified its climate law, while Finland revealed its proposed legislation to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The UK government also recently stood by its targets to cut emissions under its climate change act, while across the world other major economies have pledged strong climate action, including a recent announcement from the U.S. to cut carbon pollution from power plants.

France’s national targets go some way to showing “its own climate and energy house is in order” and paving the way for ambitious international commitments on climate change. Hosts of the UN’s 2015 climate summit, all eyes will now be on France to see if it can “play the role of fair and ambitious COP president” and broker a strong global climate treaty.

The country’s first opportunity to show leadership will be when EU nations meet to finalize the bloc’s climate and energy framework to 2030 in October. France’s emissions target puts it firmly in line with the 40 percent reduction proposed by the EU Commission, while its ambitious renewable goal goes beyond the EU-wide proposal.

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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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