July 31, 2006

WWF calls on G8 nations to adopt plan for climate, energy security

The link between climate security and energy security should not be underestimated, says the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Citing British Prime Minister Tony Blair's observation that "There will be no genuine security if the planet is ravaged by climate change," the WWF is urging the G8 nations to embark on a worldwide "Climate and Energy Security Plan" comparable in scope to the post-World War II Marshall Plan.

The aim of such a plan would be to dramatically augment energy efficiency measures and renewable energy sources within the next five years. As a result, says WWF, global emissions of CO2 and other climate pollutants would peak and decline over the next ten to 15 years, thus limiting damage to the world's climate and reducing reliance on long, insecure links to fossil fuel supplies in a cost-effective way. The WWF proposal is outlined in a briefing paper titled "No Energy Security without Climate Security," released just prior to this year's G8 Summit in St Petersburg, Russia.

To date, the paper points out, the discussion of energy security has focused on supply, driven by concerns about rising energy demand, declining oil reserves, unstable (and generally rising) energy prices, and political instability in major oil-producing regions. Last year's G8 Summit at Gleneagles put climate change firmly on the G8 agenda, with the G8 leaders committing to a series of actions and a continuing dialogue. WWF argues persuasively that reducing CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels offers the world its best chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change and making energy supply secure.

A Climate and Energy Security Plan would foster security in both areas by first assigning top priority to energy efficiency measures as the most cost-effective way of reducing reliance on long, insecure links to fossil fuel supplies and limiting the damage associated with their extraction and use. WWF calls on countries to pass legislation mandating higher standards for maximum energy consumption of energy-using and energy-conserving products; such laws should also provide for phasing out energy-wasting products. Its plan also advocates legislating medium- and long-term quantitative targets for renewable energies as a means of encouraging the uptake of clean and renewable energies.

The paper says G8 countries should continue to develop and adhere to policy and market instruments designed to promote a switch to low-carbon, diversified energy sources, such as caps and carbon markets. Natural gas should be recognized as a transition fuel toward a sustainable, zero-carbon energy future over the next three to four decades, but should not be viewed as a long-term solution to the issues of climate change and energy security.

In addition to energy efficiency and demand reduction measures, WWF notes that the great potential of combined heat and power (cogeneration) technologies should be supported by growth targets and improved access to grids. It is estimated that these technologies have could save up to 46% of U.S. CO2 emissions.

Although the G8 energy ministers have endorsed "wide scale development" of nuclear energy for countries who wish to pursue this option in order to ensure an environmentally sustainable diversification of energy supply, WWF does not see this as a viable option for energy security, viewing it as uneconomic and carrying a special class of risks centred on safety, waste disposal and weapons proliferation.

Finally, the WWF calls on G8 countries to create better opportunities for new renewable and clean energy resources by redirecting current subsidies for conventional fuels toward a highly ambitious efficiency and renewables initiative. Such subsidies, notes the paper, are currently running at $250 billion (U.S.) a year.

"The G8 have an enormous responsibility to steer the world away from climate change and energy insecurity, towards a safe and secure future with a stable climate," said Jennifer Morgan, director of WWF's global climate change program. "They can't push their responsibility from one G8 Summit to the next - they have to come up with answers and decisions now."

Julia Langer, director, global threats for WWF-Canada, observed that, "Energy security need not come at the cost of destroying our planet. As a nation whose economy relies heavily on the oil and gas sector, we have both an opportunity and an obligation to lead the way toward the new sustainable energy economy."

The report may be viewed on the WWF Web site, www.panda.org/climate/G8. More information is available from Julia Langer, director, global threats, at WWF-Canada, 416/484-7709, E-mail jlanger@wwfcanada.org.

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