French and Icelandic Presidents witness impacts of climate change in Icelandic Global Geopark ahead of COP21

Katla Global Geopark, Iceland, 16 October 2015 - French President François Hollande, together with Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, visited the Sólheimajökull glacier to see first-hand the effects of climate change, in preparation for the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) later this year. Since 1931, when the annual measurements began, the Sólheimajökull glacier has retreated by more than a kilometre.

In the vicinity of notorious Katla volcano that gave Katla Global Geopark its name, French President Hollande, accompanied by Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, visited the vast area that has been exposed by the melting of the Sólheimajökull glacier in recent decades. More than 1 kilometre of the glacier’s ice has melted back leaving nothing but black sand and bare rocks. The melting that is currently occurring has resulted in the formation of a glacial lagoon.

Ségolène Royal, French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, and Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the President of France for the Protection of the Planet also visited the glacier together with Dorrit Moussaieff, Iceland’s First Lady. The Icelandic geologist Dr. Ármann Höskuldsson guided them, explaining the effects of global warming on Icelandic glaciers and the Arctic region.

The UNESCO-supported Global Geoparks are unified areas with geological heritage of international significance. Global Geoparks use that heritage to promote awareness of key issues facing society in the context of the dynamic planet we all live on, including climate change and geohazards. Apart from the ice-capped volcanoes and lava streams, sandur plains with their black beaches and rootless vents (pseudocraters) are prominent features in the Katla Global Geopark, which became a Global Geopark in 2011.

The visit to Sólheimajökull glacier was part of President Hollande’s participation in the Arctic Circle Conference in Reykjavík, Iceland, where he gave a keynote speech. The annual Arctic Circle Conference is the largest international gathering on Arctic issues with over 2,000 attendees from more than 40 countries.

President Hollande‘s visit to Iceland is connected to ongoing work of The United Nations along with the French government towards securing a legally binding global climate agreement to curb carbon emissions. At the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December this year, President Hollande will, amongst others, be emphasizing the effects of global warming in the Arctic.

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