Global Energy Firms Claim Global Warming Milestone

LONDON, United Kingdom, May 24, 2001 (ENS) - Global energy industry association the World Energy Council has claimed important progress in its efforts to show that voluntary action by industry can play an important role in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But the evidence it advances contains some startling flaws.

Last year, the World Energy Council (WEC) created a database of greenhouse gas reduction projects and set a target to identify actions that could remove one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) or its equivalent in global warming terms between 2000 and 2005. Carbon dioxide, emitted by the combusion of coal, oil and natural gas, is the primary heat trapping gas blamed for global warming.

When world negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol collapsed without agreement last November, the World Energy Council quickly publicized its initiative as evidence that industry was "acting" while governments were "reacting."

WEC has now revealed that its 2005 goal is already set to be met, with 600 projects so far identified in 83 countries, all of which are detailed on the organization's website. The organization therefore claims to have doubled its goal for 2005 to two billion tonnes of CO2.


Demonstration in front of Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear reactor in July 1997. The facility began producing power in 2000. (Photo by Aungiira, Romania)
How much credit industry should claim for the emissions reductions the World Energy Council identifies is questionable. Few actions on the database are specific company projects to reduce current emissions.

Most are new low carbon dioxide power generation projects or programs, including a number of natural gas fired power stations.

On the list is China's Three Gorges hydropower project which is estimated to avoid the emission of 45 million tonnes of CO2, and the Czech Republic's controversial Temelin nuclear plant - 3.3 million tonnes of CO2 avoided.

The database also includes government policies, defined as "top-down actions." France, for example, is listed as undertaking further development of high speed trains, which is expected to save 30,000 tonnes of CO2 by 2005. Other policies include German government standards on energy efficiency in domestic buildings, listed as saving 3.9 million tonnes of CO2, and Belgian official support for combined heat and power.


China's Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River will be the largest dam in the world. Here shown construction as of 1999. (Photo courtesy Probe International)
Efficiency measures, tree planting projects, cogeneration of heat and power, and utilities that are switching from coal to natural gas are also on the database. A typical project is a 10 megawatt wind power plant in Ontario, Canada located on shores of Lake Huron, beside a nuclear power plant.

A new nuclear power plant in Brazil is listed on the World Energy Council database, as is a new nuclear power development in China.

Challenged over these features of the database, WEC spokesperson Elene Virkkala Nekhaev conceded that projects listed on the database were "not necessarily proactive, but show what is happening." Pressed further, she admitted that it was "probably stretching the point" to include new nuclear capacity. The database does not discuss a wide range of environmental drawbacks to the power technologies listed that are unrelated to their emission of greenhouse gases. The dangers of nuclear waste disposal, the problems created by large hydropower dams and the contruction of pipelines are not outlined.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email:}