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climate change > newsfile > world has five years to make key decisions

World has five years to make key decisions

Posted: 15 May 2007

The world has more than enough sustainable energy and technology to curb climate change, but only if key decisions are made within the next five years, according to new research by WWF.

WWF Climate Solutions cover
Climate Solutions: WWF�s vision for 2050, a new report detailing the results of that study, was launched by the global conservation organization at an international press briefing in Geneva on 15 May.

The third report this year of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released on 4 May, showed that the world could limit its heat-trapping emissions with known technologies and policy changes, but WWF�s Climate Solutions report shows how this can be done using only sustainable, environmentally friendly energy sources.

�The world has never been more aware of climate change, or the urgent need to slow its advance,� said James Leape, WWF International�s Director General. �The question for leaders and governments everywhere is how to rein in dangerously high levels of carbon dioxide emissions without stunting development and reducing living standards.

�The Climate Solutions report shows not only that this can be done, it shows how we can do it. We have a small window of time in which we can plant the seeds of change, and that is the next five years. We cannot afford to waste them.

�This is not something that governments can put off until the future. Governments in power now have a unique opportunity, a duty, to do something big for the future of the planet. If they fail, generations to come will have to live with the compromises and hardships caused by their inability to act.�

Most of the world's methods of producing, distributing and using energy are highly inefficient, and contribute to increasing levels of carbon dioxide emissions. � WWF-Canon/Anton Vorauer

Princeton University�s Professor Robert Socolow, who in his work with Professor Stephen Pacala developed the climate stabilization wedges used in the WWF study, endorsed the Climate Solutions report.

�The WWF study provides a much needed integration of climate change mitigation within a comprehensive framework of environmental stewardship,� he said.

Jorgen Randers, who in 1972 was one of the authors of Limits to Growth, the book known for linking economic growth and the state of the natural environment, also praised the report.

�The WWF Climate Solutions report is important first and foremost because it shows that it can be done. The plan shows it is possible to supply the world�s growing energy need in a climate-friendly manner, even if we choose to limit ourselves to existing and environmentally acceptable technologies,� said Professor Randers, who is also Chairman of WWF-Norway.

Climate Solutions is the report of WWF�s Energy Taskforce which was set up in December 2005. More than 100 scientists and experts contributed their knowledge.

The taskforce 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?�

solar panels
Solar panels, Spain. Industrialised countries need tough limits on CO2 emissions to promote investment in cleaner forms of electricity generation, such as solar energy. � WWF-Canon/Claire Doole
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.

The findings were clear and had a note of hope: the model showed, with a high degree of probability (i.e. greater than 90 per cent), that known energy sources and proven technologies could be harnessed between now and 2050 to meet a projected doubling in global demand for energy while at the same time achieving the necessary significant drop (about 60-80 per cent) in carbon dioxide emissions to prevent dangerous climate change.

The model shows for the first time that this is technically and industrially feasible. It also shows that measures must be taken within five years to bring about a reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions within the next ten years.

The 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.

WWF - Climate Change pages
Climate Solutions Report (PDF)

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