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Spain Offers to Host COP25 Climate Talks in Madrid After Chile Bows Out

Climate
Hundreds of Spanish students in Madrid join the global movement "Friday for Future" in March to demand measures against climate change and protection of the environment. Lizana / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

One day after Chile bowed out of hosting the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference, Spain has stepped up to the plate.


Chilean President Sebastián Piñera of Chile said in a press conference in Santiago Thursday that acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had offered to host the summit in Madrid, The New York Times reported.

"Spain believe that multilateral climate action is a priority for both the UN and the EU, and one which demands the highest commitment from all of us," Spain's statement said, according to The Guardian.

The conference was supposed to be held in Chile from Dec. 2 to 13, but Piñera stepped away from hosting after his country was rocked by weeks of demonstrations against income inequality and police repression.

Carolina Schmidt, the Chilean environment minister and president-designate of COP25, communicated Spain's offer to the UN, which will consider it next week, according to The Guardian. Spain has offered to host the talks, but Chile would retain presidency over them, The New York Times explained.

The conference, which is expected to draw around 20,000 delegates, would discuss the implementation of the Paris agreement to keep global warming to well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels, in an attempt to stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

"It is encouraging to see countries working together in the spirit of multilateralism to address climate change, the biggest challenge facing this and future generations," Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change Patricia Espinosa said in a statement.

However, some are concerned with what it could mean for the talks to move them away from Chile.

"It's a shame that COP25 won't be held in Latin America to highlight some of the grave climate impacts that affect the region," Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid's global climate lead, told BBC News. "But hopefully a Madrid summit will be able to keep those in mind. Credit should be given to the Spanish government for offering to help at such short notice considering these often take more than a year to organise."

E3G policy adviser Jennifer Tollman, meanwhile, worried about those who had booked non-refundable tickets or made other hard-to-cancel plans.

"A lot of people sank a lot of money into this. For participants in developing countries this is a huge issue. Without support, this could impact participation by the global south," Tollman told The Guardian.

More broadly, the protests that forced Chile to step away from hosting the conference show the importance of incorporating social justice into any plan for climate action.

"Climate policy has to be social policy. That's what will be discussed inside and outside the negotiation rooms," Tollman said.

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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.