Albion Monitor /News

U.S. Stalling on Climate Protection, WWF Says

by Ramesh Jaura

"Misguided effort to appease" oil and coal industries
(IPS) BONN-- The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) has accused the U.S. and other major industrial nations of "misguided appeasement" of the energy industry -- and of threatening some of the earth's most precious ecosystems and rare species.

The world conservation group say the United States and other major industrialized nations are stalling talks on implementation of a global pact to halt climate change and the setting of targets to reduce emissions of so-called greenhouse gases.

WWF climate change policy coordinator Merylyn McKenzie-Hedger said on February 28 that the U.S. and other big industrial nations are "moving rapidly backwards" in a "misguided effort to appease" oil and coal industries that claim emissions reductions would hurt national economies.

Ongoing talks on this issue under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, bringing together representatives of some 150 nations, continue throught this week.

Majority of nations had not taken adequate steps to meet commitments made in 1992
Greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) chief among them, are held responsible for global rises in average world temperatures which, if unchecked, could trigger massive atmospheric changes and a devastating rise in world sea levels.

McKenzie-Hedger told reporters here that a group of 2,000 economists in the U.S. had said studies show that the benefits of effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions would outweigh the total cost of implementing those reductions.

"In the U.S. economists say sound economic analysis shows that there are policy options that would slow climate change and may improve U.S. productivity in the long run," McKenzie-Hedger said.

The WWF believes if the threat of climate change is going to be eliminated, governments must take decisive action and define clear targets for reducing fossil fuel emissions.

This, in its view, places enormous responsibility on the shoulders of the government ministers who will meet in Kyoto, Japan, in December to formally approve the final version of the Convention and decide how the world will combat climate change during the next century.

The international environmental organization urges industrialized countries to agree to cut their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 20 percent below the 1990 level by the year 2005.

McKenzie-Hedger pointed out that the majority of nations had not taken adequate steps to meet commitments to stabilize CO2 emissions, made at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992.

"Much greater efforts must be made to implement he policies and measures necessary to promote cost-effective actions," she added. Failure to do so would result in increased global warming and other examples of climate destabilization leading to significant damage to many of the Earth's most precious species and ecosystems.

Australia, Canada, Norway and the U.S. ranked lowest, emitting more that 13 tons of CO2 per person
To highlight the need for action, WWF has created a scorecard of 20 industrial countries to show, at a glance, how countries score on fulfilling the Rio commitment. That commitment states that, by 2000, nations should reduce national emissions to 1990 levels.

The WWF say the key criteria covered by the scorecard measure a government's political will to meet the commitment and the tangible progress achieved so far in the reduction of CO2 emissions, the most significant contributor to climate change.

According to the scorecard, Australia, Canada, Norway and the U.S. ranked the lowest on all counts: emitting more that 13 tons of CO2 per person and stalling negotiations for emission reduction targets.

The majority of European Union countries, Russia, the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Japan, scored only slightly better.

The nations that scored the highest for reducing the threat of climate change were Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

WWF is therefore looking to "progressive European Union countries" like Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands -- supported by Britain and Austria -- to achieve real progress at the international climate change treaty negotiations in Bonn.

WWF Germany's Stefan Singer said the cuts in emissions in Germany were in part a result of economic restructuring in the eastern part of the country after reunification. By 1996 Germany had achieved a statistical 13 percent cut in its 1990 level of CO2 emissions. CO2 accounts for about 80 percent of Germany's greenhouse gas emissions, most of which come from burning fossil fuels.

The power sector and space heating are each responsible for about one-third, and the transport sector for almost one quarter, of the country's CO2 emissions, says the WWF in its technical report "On The Road To Kyoto."

However all the cuts in greenhouse gases have occurred in the former East Germany following the post-reunification restructuring there that shut down much of its heavy industry, and the replacement of power generators using high CO2-emitting lignite coal with natural gas burning units.

In fact this shift disguised an increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the former West Germany. CO2 emissions in East Germany declined by 45 percent in six years, whereas emissions in the former West Germany rose by two percent in the same period.

According to the WWF report, emission reductions in Britain have been largely achieved as a consequence of liberalization, deregulation and privatization in the energy sector which has seen gas become an increasingly cost-efficient competitor to coal for electricity generation.

Furthermore, nuclear energy output has increased. These moves have offset the failures of many of the measures in the original climate change strategy.

The report notes that economic restructuring haa also seriously affected industrial activity and energy consumption in the former Soviet bloc -- Central and Eastern European -- countries. This has led to reduction in CO2 emissions there too.

Nevertheless, the WWF says it sees no reason for complacency. Its scorecard shows that there is a wide gap between nations taking significant action to reduce climate change and nations that are trying to block negotiations.

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Albion Monitor March 6, 1997 (

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