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WWF provides blueprint for power sector to curb global warming now

10 June 2003 – Global temperature has already risen by 0.6°C over the past century, affecting many ecosystems as well as people. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise of more than 2.0°C will lead to increased flooding, droughts, spreading of diseases, damage to corals and melting of glaciers, with devastating consequences.

The report, Low Carbon Electricity Systems, identifies feasible ways to substantially reduce CO2 emissions by increasing the share of new renewables to up to 50 per cent of the total energy supply. With this blueprint for a climate-safe power sector, WWF is launching Power Switch!, a new initiative challenging electric utilities to switch from coal to clean power.

Emissions released by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas, build up in the atmosphere, blanket the Earth and trap in heat, causing global warming. The power sector, which produces 37 per cent of global CO2 emissions – the biggest single source of emissions – is crucial in making deep CO2 cuts over the next two decades in order to stop global temperatures rising above the danger threshold of 2 degrees Celsius.

“WWF challenges these companies to make a firm commitment to be a part of the solution to global warming. The technical solutions exist and are cost-effective – what we need to see now is responsible leadership amongst the biggest polluters,” said Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF’s Climate Change Programme.

The WWF report shows that with effective programmes for both reducing energy demand and stimulating investment in renewable energy, carbon neutrality for the entire power sector in the EU will be well on its way for achievement by 2040. In fact, according to the report, the EU power sector can cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that contribute to global warming to about 50 per cent of today’s levels and reduce its dependency on dirty fossil fuels by 2020.

Large power companies are in a prime place to move the world along that track. In Germany, for example, 50 per cent of old power stations are due to be replaced in the near future – the question is whether the new stations will use dirty coal or clean and efficient renewable energy.

The major challenge for energy policymakers will be to design and stimulate an effective market and implement programmes for energy efficiency and “new renewable” energy technologies – wind, sustainable biomass, and solar energy.

Substantial changes to energy policies, energy taxes, and market incentives are required to meet the challenging targets set by WWF. Such changes will also ensure achievement of the Kyoto Protocol targets and set Europe on track for the deeper cuts required in the future.

“Efficiency and renewables are the double win for safe and secure electricity supply,” said Jennifer Morgan. “A number of leadership utilities we are talking to have recognised the importance of acting now to curb global warming and are already rising to the challenge. WWF is recognizing companies moving towards new energy sources as ‘Power Pioneers.’ “

WWF is currently in discussions with German RWE and E.ON, Swedish Vattenfall, and Italian ENEL, which are amongst the world’s 20 most polluting power companies.