5 years left to start the energy revolution and stop climate change

Posted 26 November 2007
26 Nov 2007
Hong Kong – The world can prevent dangerous levels of climate change and meet the rapidly increasing demand for energy around the world. This is the result of new research by WWF, highlighting that governments have five years left to agree on the necessary measures for change. It also shows that the use of especially climate polluting coal around the world needs to be limited – a major challenge for Asian countries depending on coal.

The global conservation organisation's report Climate Solutions: WWF's Vision for 2050 lights the way towards a clean and sustainable energy future. It details how known energy sources and proven technologies are sufficient to supply the projected doubling of global energy demand by 2050 and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 to 80 percent over the same period, thus protecting people and nature from disastrous climate impacts.

"Just one week ahead of the crucial United Nation's climate conference in Bali, WWF clearly shows that it can be done and how it can be done, with only five years left to initiate the next energy revolution", says Liam Salter, Head of Climate Programme at WWF Hong Kong. "The solutions are at hand and Bali must agree on decisive action inspired by this WWF roadmap to ensure that climate pollution peaks and declines within ten years."

In another report – Coming Clean: The Truth and Future of Coal in Asia Pacific – WWF shows how Asia's rapidly emerging economies are heavily dependent on coal power. According to the WWF research, however, the share of coal and gas installations must be limited to 26 percent of total global energy supply by 2050. Remaining power stations need carbon capture and storage (CCS) equipment, a technology that industry promises will store emissions safely underground.

"Asian nations can't just keep relying on coal as a cheap and available source of energy, but need to boost energy efficiency and become serious about renewable energy now", says Ina Pozon, Coordinator of WWF International's Asia Pacific Coal Initiative. "Governments must get industry to prove the viability of clean coal technologies, otherwise the social and environmental impacts of local pollution and global climate change will prohibit the large scale use of coal."

According to the Coming Clean report, industrialized nations need to find new forms of technology transfer to assist developing countries in implementing low emissions technologies. In order to make these technologies more economic, the market value of coal also has to reflect its toll on human health and precious ecosystems. Policies reflecting the true costs of coal and ensuring public participation in energy planning would help to protect local environments and communities from pollution and climate change.

Notes to the editor:

  1. This press release, both WWF reports and a summary brochure can be found online for free download at: http://wwf.org.hk/forPress/20071126-reports.zip
  2. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), coal power is responsible for about 40 percent of the global emissions of climate polluting carbon dioxide (CO2). With 70 percent of the country's electricity being supplied by coal, China is set to become the world's biggest CO2 emitter this year. IEA statistics show that global coal use grew by an unprecedented 30 percent between 2001 and 2006, with 72 percent of this growth coming from China alone. Coal's impacts on the Asia Pacific region range from the depletion of arable soil to diminishing clean water supplies, from severe air pollution to grave respiratory illness and displaced and disenfranchised communities. But perhaps coal's greatest threat is its significant contribution to global warming, which stands to unleash potentially cataclysmic environmental impacts. Still it is unrealistic to expect an immediate shift away from coal in countries across the region.
  3. Climate Solutions is the report of WWF's Energy Task Force which was set up in December 2005. More than 100 scientists and experts contributed their knowledge. The task force set out to answer the question: "Is it technically possible to meet the growing global demand for energy using clean and sustainable energy sources and technologies that will protect the global climate?" It began by reviewing 25 different commercially available sustainable energy sources or technologies and ranking them. From this process, three groupings emerged: those technologies with clear benefits, those with some negative but mostly positive impacts, and those where the negatives clearly outweighed the positives. Those technologies found to have more benefits than negative impacts were then run through the newly designed WWF Climate Solutions model.
  4. The Climate Solutions report identifies six key solutions to the problem of meeting global energy demand without damaging the global climate:
    ‧ Improving energy efficiency.
    ‧ Stopping forest loss.
    ‧ Accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies.
    ‧ Developing flexible fuels.
    ‧ Replacing high-carbon coal with low-carbon gas.
    ‧ Equipping fossil-fuel plants with carbon capture and storage technology.

26 Nov 2007
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