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WWF Calls on U.S. to Use Climate Summit to Break the Rising Trend of Carbon Pollution

The Hague, Holland - World Wildlife Fund urges the United States to help break the rising trend of carbon pollution that has been a fact of life since the Industrial Revolution. The UN negotiations on climate change start today, and industrialized nations must not miss this crucial opportunity to reduce the global warming pollution that threatens both wildlife and people around the world.

Around 160 nations are expected in The Hague, Holland for two weeks of intense talks intended to finalize the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only agreement containing legally-binding limits on emissions of global warming gases from industrialized nations. They would need to reduce their combined emissions to 5 percent below the level of 1990 during in the coming decade - or 7 percent for the U.S.

"For better or worse, the world in the future will feel the effects of what Ministers decide in The Hague in the next two weeks," said Jennifer Morgan, Director of World Wildlife Fund's Climate Change Campaign. "This is the first global climate summit of the 21st century. Ministers must lay a solid foundation here for an effective global assault to stop global warming. Their past inaction has allowed it to become the biggest, most urgent problem facing life on Earth."

Changes in nature and in weather patterns are clear warnings that it's time governments got tough on global warming. The level of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is 30 per cent higher than in the pre-industrial era and has reached its highest level in 420,000 years. Emissions of carbon dioxide increased 12-fold during the 20th century as society consumed, and wasted, increasing amounts of coal, oil and natural gas. Scientists project that if governments do too little to cut emissions, atmospheric levels of global warming gases could rise to two or three times the pre-industrial level of CO2. Unprecedented levels of warming could mean plants and animals would have to relocate ten times faster than they did during the last ice age - a struggle that many species would not survive.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has circulated its concerns to governments. As a bare minimum, WWF wants countries to agree to a fair and effective Kyoto treaty that can come into force by 2002. However, WWF is opposed to an agreement at any price and argues that cutting pollution begins at home. The United States, Japan, Australia and Canada, which emit two-thirds of the CO2 from all western industrialized countries, allowed their combined CO2 output to increase 11 per cent between 1990 and 1997. They want the flexibility to continue increasing emissions but to deduct the carbon absorbed by forests, and to repatriate carbon savings from energy projects that they fund in other countries. This flexibility would derail the Kyoto treaty.

Beyond plugging-up loopholes in the treaty, WWF wants industrialized nations to start making up for the "lost decade" of the 1990s when they could have done far more to reduce emissions in response to the early warnings of international scientists. WWF hopes to see Ministers from industrialized nations agreeing to make substantial cuts in their domestic carbon pollution this decade, taking them beyond their Kyoto targets.

"The Kyoto Protocol is supposed to be about cutting carbon pollution and that's precisely what Ministers need to deliver," said Morgan. "Loopholes in this treaty would be like a noose around nature's neck."