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Nations Commit to International Climate Action: How Will They Get There?

Climate

In the run-up to the COP20 climate negotiations happening right now here in Lima, the world has seen some major developments for international climate agreements. While countries do not have to make public their national greenhouse gas reductions commitments until March of next year, major players including the U.S., China, the United Kingdom and Japan are already making bold agreements about what they will do.

In the last few weeks alone, the U.S. and China announced a landmark climate deal outlining new commitments by each of the countries, while several countries—including the U.S., the United Kingdom and Japan—made large financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund, which will help less affluent countries fight climate change.

This is an exciting time for the climate, and especially exciting to watch the conversations on the ground here in Lima.

With all of these commitments and goals, the natural question arises: how will countries meet these ambitious goals?

The good news is that the decades of international inaction did not forestall climate action on a local scale, and success stories abound even in countries that have yet to make international commitments. Earlier this year, we featured some of these success stories during our 24 Hours of Reality: 24 Reasons for Hope broadcast, but I want to share them again here.

Australia

Though Australia has remained cool on climate commitments, an organization called Cool Australia is challenging young Australians across the nation to take positive climate action.

Field Report - Cool Australia:

China

In order to achieve its recently-announced goal of peaking CO2 emissions by 2030, China must expand its share of non-fossil fuel energy to around 20 percent. The good news, is that China is already embarking on an ambitious plan to expand its wind power.

Field Report – China’s Wind Quest: 

India

While the world waits for a commitment from India, the world’s second most populous nation, the Barefoot College program is already harnessing human potential along with the sun to improve millions of impoverished lives.

Field Report - Barefoot College:

Also in India, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is working to improve the lives of the nearly three billion people who rely on wood- or coal-powered open cookstoves, while reducing carbon pollution along the way.

Field Report – Cleaning up the Cookstove:

Mexico

As a nation, Mexico has made financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund. At the same time, though, people in the country are battling recurrent drought and heat trying to protect chocolate, which is threatened by climate change.

Field Report – Mexican Cocoa:

Philippines

The Philippines has begun accounting for climate change in its national budget. But on a local scale, the island of Sibuyan has recently converted its energy mix to 90 percent renewable, and they’re eager to share their success.

Field Report – At River Camp in the Philippines:

South Africa

In just 10 years, South Africa became a leading wind power producer in Africa, creating one of the fastest and most high-tech energy revolutions in the world. Yet the country still struggles to utilize renewable energy in the face of an abundant coal supply.

Field Report – A Clean Wind Blows in South Africa:

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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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