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Up To Two Billion Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Saved By Cleaner Energy Schemes By 2005

Nairobi/London, 29 June 2001 - Voluntary actions by industry, governments and organizations are leading to small but significant reductions in emissions of global warming gases world-wide, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Energy Council (WEC) said.

The findings challenge the widely-held belief that the stalling of the Climate Change talks in the Hague last year and political disagreements over the science and the need for legally binding reduction targets have paralyzed the world-wide effort to fight global warming.

Studies by the WEC indicate that the number of new clean energy schemes, government initiatives and renewable energy projects will, by 2005, save equivalent of one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (C02) annually. This equates to a saving of over three per cent in terms of global greenhouse gas emissions emitted in the year 2000.

The figure of one billion tonnes may be a dramatic understatement A survey of 91 countries indicates the actual level of additonal projects planned or in the pipeline could raise the global C02 savings as high as two billion tonnes (two gigatonnes) by 2005 or six per cent of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director, of UNEP said that the pessimism and gloom hanging over the Climate Change talks, which are set to resume in Bonn on July 19, had masked small but real progress towards reducing emissions.

He highlighted the progress with the achievements made in China, which accounts for 14 per cent of world C02 emissions.

"China has, despite economic growth estimated at 36 per cent, managed to reduce it carbon dioxide emissions by 17 per cent since 1996/97. The figure of 17 per cent may prove premature, with the real reduction likely to be in the range of 10 or 12 per cent, but this is still remarkable and encouraging progress. It has been achieved by an active effort to promote energy conservation, end coal subsidies and support more efficient coal-fire power generation," said Mr Toepfer.

A study by scientists at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in California concludes that China's C02 emissions are already 400 to 900 million tonnes below what was expected in 2000 which is approximately equivalent to all C02 emissions from Canada, at the low end of the range, or Germany, at the high end of the estimate.

In the United States, which at 23 per cent has the highest share of global C02 emissions, levels of the greenhouse gas have grown from 4.8 billion tonnes in 1990 to over 5.4 tonnes in 1998, the International Energy Agency and the OECD estimate.

But even in the United States improvements are being made their official statistics show. From 1990 to 1998 the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of GDP or economic growth declined by 11 per cent.

" The fact that two of the most important countries at the centre of the global warming debate are acting, and are managing to break the link between growth and a parallel rise in emissions, offers an important glimmer of hope which must be built on. We must do more, we have to do more. But the march to a less polluting world has begun and must be helped to continue even if there are disagreements between governments about the science and the need for legally binding emission reduction targets," said Mr Toepfer.

His comments come as informal climate change talks among 115 countries closed in The Hague this week The talks are aimed at trying to secure a successful outcome when countries meet in Bonn in mid-July to resume the stalled 6th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

They also come in advance of a report, also to be launched in July, by the G8 Renewable Energy Task Force, which has been studying the global prospects for green energy schemes.

Elena Virkkala Nekhaev, manager of programmes at the WEC, said: "There is a generally perception that little is happening globally to tackle climate c