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Macron visits retreating glacier, urges ‘fight of the century’

Macron visits retreating glacier, urges ‘fight of the century’

AFP
Chamonix
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday urged the “fight of the century” to combat climate change and preserve the environment, as he visited an iconic Alpine glacier at risk from global warming.
Macron is keen to burnish his green credentials as he begins the road towards 2022 presidential elections although sceptics have not always been impressed by his ambitious environmental rhetoric.
On a high-profile visit to the foot of Mont Blanc, France’s highest mountain, in the heart of the Alps, Macron was taken to the Mer de Glace (‘Sea of Ice’), a glacier which has awed travellers for centuries.
Marching through the glacier on a special walkway, Macron inspected a natural wonder that has receded by 8-10 metres (26 to 32 feet) annually, or two kilometres (1.2 miles) since 1850.
“I did not expect a melting as quick as this. It leaves a huge impression. You see how the failure to take decisions has resulted in that,” the president said, blaming “a very direct impact of climate warming.”
According to the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA), temperatures in the mountain range have risen by nearly two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in the past 120 years -- almost double the global average, and will continue to soar.
The world’s nations agreed in the French capital in 2015 to curb average global warming to 2.0C over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, or to 1.5C if possible.
But the one-degree mark has already been exceeded and scientists warn Earth is on track for 3.0C unless the Paris agreement signatories improve their targets for reducing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
Warming is not the only threat to Mont Blanc. Macron told reporters after his visit that a major concern was a rise in “aberrant behaviour” by climbers and visitors.
Recent incidents have included a British tourist abandoning a rowing machine on the famed mountain, a German tourist making the ascent with his dog against the rules, and two Swiss climbers landing a small plane just east of the summit before hiking to the top.
The mayor of Chamonix, where Macron held his press conference, last year urged the president to act against such “wackos”.
Macron said a protected area will be declared around the mountain, and the existing fine of 38 euros ($41) for undesired activities would be hiked to between 750 and 1,500 euros. These steps would go a long way, he said, to making legitimate alpine tourism possible while discouraging harmful practices.