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Goal to End Fossil Fuels by 2050 Proposed at Lima Climate Talks

Climate

A draft negotiating text was circulated yesterday at the UN climate summit in Lima, Peru that would cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050, earlier than many other proposals, and could spell the end of the fossil fuel industry. It's one of the most ambitious proposals to come out of the conference.

Scenes like this would become history in 35 years if a new draft proposal to end carbon emissions by 2050 is adopted in Paris next year.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

According to The Guardian of London, the countries behind this aggressive proposal to address climate change include Norway, Sweden, the Marshall Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru and Panama. Their hope is that it will provide a negotiating framework heading into next December's final talks in Paris.

The 33-page draft text suggested that developed countries reach peak emissions by next year en route to eliminating them entirely by 2050 and achieving negative emissions by 2100. It noted that "the time frame for peaking may be longer in developing countries, in the context of equitable access to sustainable development." and suggested pathways to achieving its goal.

Reaction from environmental activists was positive, although they cautioned that it will take some determined advocacy and hard work to keep it in the final agreement to be hammered out in Paris.

"I think we have to say to ourselves that the chances of this stuff staying in the text are down to all of our collective efforts in demanding that this stays in the text," Ruth David of Greenpeace UK told Guardian writer Graham Readfearn. "This is not only civil society but also progressive businesses who have to make their voices heard in keeping this in the text. The chances of this stuff surviving are dependent on the efforts that we collectively make to influence politicians to do the right thing."

"This text won’t be settled here," Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told The Guardian. "It is an options text that then needs to be translated into a legal text and it won’t be decided until the last night at Paris. So which long-term goal survives the end of the day we won’t know until a year from now. But there was incredible political momentum coming out of the climate summit in New York where about 60 national leaders endorsed the need for a long-term goal as part of the Paris agreement and that number is continuing to grow. We have more and more businesses, faith groups and unions speaking out—there is a momentum building around this and I think by Paris next year the chances of a strong goal staying in the agreement are probably much greater than they are right now."

On the other hand, major carbon emitter Saudi Arabia said the 2050 goal was not achievable. Khalid Abuleif, Saudi Arabia’s lead climate negotiator, told the Financial Times, “We really don’t think it’s realistic at this stage with the current technology and current economic model base we have."

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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.

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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.