WWF: Stopping Climate Change Is Possible

BANGKOK, Thailand, May 2, 2007 (ENS) - The third and final report this year by the UN's intergovernmental climate panel is set for release on Friday. Now undergoing a line-by-line review by governments meeting in Bangkok, the report is expected to show that the cost of doing nothing about global warming is much higher than the cost of taking action.

"Mitigation of Climate Change," written by the Third Working Group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, follows a report on the state of climate science in March and a report on the impacts of climate change released in April.

At the opening of the Bangkok meeting on Monday, IPCC Chairman Dr. R.K. Pachauri said the mitigation report "assesses not only options related to the long term covering this entire century, but also a range of issues covering short and medium term horizons extending up to 2030."

Dr. R.K. Pachauri of India chairs the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
The third IPCC report analyzes emissions, emission projections, mitigation options in the short and longer term, and options for policies, measures and instruments to limit global warming.

A broad mix of stakeholders contributed to the third IPCC report, including representatives from business and industry and members of civil society.

Ahead of the IPCC report, the global conservation organization WWF has released its own report showing that stopping climate change is possible.

The WWF report details 15 positive climate actions the group has helped to manifest. They range from a new law in Thailand that encourages the clean production of biofuels to a credit card in the Netherlands that converts purchases into funding for climate restoration.

"Taking action brings real savings and other benefits to consumers and businesses while preventing dangerous climate change," says Hans Verolme, director of WWF's Global Climate Change Programme. "The planet is running a fever and people are working with WWF to cool it - global warming is costing us dearly already but by acting now we can avoid future calamities."

One of the WWF's 15 climate actions is a new carbon footprint credit card issued by Rabobank, the largest commercial bank in the Netherlands. The card is now used by 1.1 million customers.

A specially developed calculation method is used to convert the total carbon dioxide, CO2, emission of purchases into a cash amount, says the bank. For example, filling up with gasoline equals a greater emission of CO2 than buying flowers. The bank then makes a contribution to climate projects to combat the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.


A percentage of purchases on the world's first carbon footprint credit card goes to fund sustainable energy projects in developing countries. (Photo courtesy Rabobank)
The card helps offset the full life-cycle carbon footprint of all purchases through Gold Standard energy projects, a quality standard for sustainable energy projects in developing countries developed by WWF. All underlying activities from the different partners are validated by an external verifier.

"Taken this way, offsetting is cutting edge in two ways," says Barbera van der Hoek, head of the Dutch WWF climate and energy program. "In the Netherlands it helps people to become aware of the climate change impact of their own buying behavior. In developing countries Gold Standard projects help build local sustainability and a positive change of the energy system."

In Thailand, as part of a coalition to trigger a renewable energy boom in Thailand, and counter CO2 emissions and other pollution from coal power plants, WWF worked for an amendment to the Very Small Power Producers law.

The National Energy Policy Council approved the WWF-sponsored amendment last September. It allows private renewable power generators producing between one and 10 megawatts to sell their electricity into the grid system. For the first time this opens the Thai electricity grid for decentralized and small-scale power producers, of which many are likely to tap renewable sources.

"Thailand has a long history of fighting coal projects, especially by communities in the Lampang Province against the Mae Moh Coal Fired Power Plant. Impacts on the local communities, especially through pollution and public health, have been so obvious," says Wanun Permpibul, renewable energy expert in Thailand. "The very small power producers could help expand power supply and prevent new coal fired power plants. This helps limit climate change and also protects public health and the local environment."

Some of the 15 ways to stop climate change are sweeping, encompassing major industries in many countries.

The European Union Emission Trading System is the world's first and sets a precedent for the upcoming systems in other countries. It covers all heavily polluting industries, including the power sector, cement, paper, steel, and glass sectors, about 46 percent of EU emissions.

power plant

Greece's coal-fired Kardia power plant sends greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. (Photo courtesy Public Power Corp.)
"A crucial part of the solution to CO2 emissions from dirty coal power production is the European Emission Trading Scheme," says Dr. Stephan Singer, head of WWF's European Climate and Energy Programme. "WWF is pushing for strong pollution limits and clear incentives to invest in renewables, energy savings and low polluting natural gas. Only tough limits on CO2 will force the utilities to replace dirty coal plants."

Another way to help stop climate change is a simple set of standards for green energy products in Europe that WWF helped to establish in 2004.

When consumers want to switch to green energy providers they can look to the Eugene Standard for an effective set of criteria to ensure that green energy products are good for the climate and for the environment.

"Eugene was born out of the necessity to discern between real green power that replaces carbon emissions, and power with fewer emissions but other negative impacts on the environment," says Jean-Philippe Denruyter, president of Eugene.

Some of the 15 ways to stop climate change are regional, and some are national efforts.

Homes account for 27 percent of the carbon emissions in the United Kingdom. Through its One Million Sustainable Homes campaign, WWF has been working to bring sustainable, energy efficient homes from the fringes to the mainstream across the UK. In December 2006, the UK Government announced that all new homes will be zero carbon by 2016.

Some 200,000 new homes are being built each year in the UK, but they now lag behind best practice in Europe and only a handful are built to zero carbon standard. Still, WWF is confident that many developers will rise to the challenge of delivering zero carbon before the regulatory date of 2016.

Not all of the 15 ways to stop climate change are take programs that last for years. One effort was only an hour long.

On March 31, 2007 a symbolic action of concern about climate change was undertaken in Sydney. Under the banner of "Earth Hour" citizens and businesses in the city turned off their lights for an hour.

This hour of action resulted in an increase in public awareness about the impact of electricity use on global evening. The action also led to a 10.2 percent drop in energy usage across the central business district according to the energy retailer, Energy Australia.

"The overwhelming support for Earth Hour from Sydneysiders and from many communities across the country has amazed us and shows the willingness of both business and individuals to start cutting emissions," said WWF-Australia Head of Communications Andy Ridley.

Finally, WWF says that in its view, the Kyoto Protocol is a success.

This international treaty under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change requires 35 industrialized countries and the EU to reduce their emission of six greenhouse gases an average of 5.2 percent of 1990 emissions during the five year period 2008 to 2012.

The annual UN climate change conference in Montreal in 2005 agreed that a new phase should start in 2013. Negotiations about the shape of this new phase are expected to start in December, at the UN conference in Bali.


WWF's Hans Verolme is director of WWF's Global Climate Change Programme. (Photo by Brian Thomson courtesy WWF)
"The Kyoto Protocol has successfully established the global legal architecture for real emissions reductions," says Verolme.

"The house stands but it needs many improvements: much deeper emissions restrictions, commitments from, and help for, rapidly developing countries, and aid for the least developed and most vulnerable parts of the world."

While the United States, Australia, and now Canada have opted out of the Kyoto Protocol on the grounds that it would be bad for their economies, some experts say the cost of doing nothing would be higher still.

The Stern Review on the economics of climate change, published by the British government in October 2006, showed that doing nothing about climate change can cost the world's economies up to 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product, while the cost of climate action stands at one percent.