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The latest climate change news from WWF

Polar bear subpopulations, with Kane Basin and Baffin Bay highlighted. © WWF

Baffin Bay and Kane Basin populations are likely stable, for now


A newly released survey shows two polar bear subpopulations previously thought to be declining are likely stable. But the survey also finds that the bears are increasingly feeling the effects of shrinking sea ice habitat.
 
About the "Re-Assessment of the Baffin Bay and Kane Basin Polar Bear Subpopulations" survey:
  • WWF contributed funding for the recent survey, which was conducted from 2011-2013 by the Governments of Nunavut and Greenland.
  • These subpopulations are shared between Canada (Nunavut) and Greenland.
  • The Baffin Bay and Kane Basin subpopulations are now estimated to be higher than the last time the bears were surveyed in the 1990s.
  • Sea ice habitat for the Baffin Bay subpopulation has decreased dramatically. The length of the summer season has increased by 12 days/decade since 1979, and sea ice melt is occurring 3-4 weeks earlier in the 2000s than in the 1990s.
  • For Baffin Bay polar bears, this habitat loss has resulted in a shift in range northward, and bears are spending 20-30 days more on land now compared to the 1990s.
  • Though the subpopulations are currently stable, the report outlines many areas of concern for the Baffin Bay subpopulation related to declining sea ice due to climate change. Changes between the 1990s and 2010s surveys indicate:
    • decreases in body condition,
    • declines in cub production,
    • an increase in the frequency of long swimming events for female polar bears. 
Quotes
"It's definitely a positive sign to see population numbers looking good, but it's also worrying to see that climate change is beginning to have a noticeable effect, even on northerly populations. This reiterates the importance of monitoring to understand how polar bears are coping with the effects of climate change, while at the same time focusing our efforts on maintaining polar bear habitat within the Last Ice Area."
 
Melanie Lancaster, senior specialist, Arctic species, WWF Arctic Programme
 
Posted: February 23, 2017, 12:00 am
Emissions reduction © Global Warming Images / WWFThe European Parliament voted today on the reform of the EU Emission Trading System for the 2021-2030 period. MEPs took some positive steps to strengthen the carbon price signal. However they shied away from turning the EU ETS into a real climate protection instrument that helps the EU reduce carbon pollution in line with the Paris Agreement.

"MEPs missed their chance today to rescue the EU's climate credibility and live up to the Paris Agreement. This ETS reform is nowhere near delivering adequate emission reductions from Europe's largest carbon polluters. MEPs failed to square the circle of ensuring climate protection through clean industrial production in Europe," said Sam Van den plas, EU climate policy officer at WWF European Policy Office.

MEPs largely supported the earlier report from the Environment Committee and agreed to take initial steps to tackle the vast surplus of emission allowances by cancelling 800 million emission allowances from the ETS Market Stability Reserve. However, the linear reduction factor was reduced to 2.2% and therefore will not increase the annual pace of carbon emission reduction after 2020. The hotly debated establishment of an import inclusion scheme for industrial sectors with low trade intensity was rejected, allowing more free pollution permits for sectors not at risk of carbon leakage.

"The result of today's vote on the EU ETS reform will have to be improved by EU Environment Ministers later this month. Responsible EU policymakers must step up their game to implement the Paris Agreement and avoid the ever-rising social and economic impacts of not acting on climate change. If the EU ETS is a key tool to do so, it needs to be made fit for purpose," concluded Imke Lübbeke, Head of EU Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office.

EU Environment Ministers will discuss the ETS reform proposal further to prepare and potentially agree their position during the Environment Council meeting on 28th February.

ENDS

Contacts:

Audrey Gueudet
Senior Communications and Media Officer
Climate & Energy
WWF European Policy Office
agueudet@wwf.eu
+32 494 032 027
Posted: February 15, 2017, 12:00 am
Saimaa ringed seal. © Juha Taskinen WWF-Finland

Volunteers working with WWF and Metsähallitus (Parks & Wildlife Finland) have spent the past few days on the ice of Lake Saimaa in Finland helping an endangered population of freshwater seals to survive. The Lake Saimaa ringed seals need snow to build the lairs where they give birth, but the past few years have not provided deep enough snow cover for those lairs. To compensate, volunteers working with WWF and Metsähallitus have built up snow banks the seals can use.

"There are only 360 of the seals left," said Liisa Rohweder, CEO of WWF Finland. "without this help, up to half of the pups could die. When we have made these mounds before, almost all of the pups born were in these artificial drifts."

The first snow banks built for seals were innovated and tested as a part of a research project funded by WWF Finland and carried out by scientists at the University of Eastern Finland.

The plight of the Lake Saimaa seals is a foretaste of what may happen in other parts of the Arctic. The last three years were the warmest on record, and Arctic sea ice continues to shrink in extent and volume, shrinking habitat for life that relies on the ice.

"We really appreciate the help of the volunteers," added Rohweder, "but we can only take these stop-gap measures for so long. At some point, we have to have a viable long-term plan. This includes taking quick action on climate change, and working out how we best conserve the spaces where ice-dependent populations can persist."


Learn more Donate


For more information contact:
Joonas Fritze
Communications Officer, WWF-Finland
+358 40 840 8500
joonas.fritze@wwf.fi 

Pictures and video
To be used only to promote this release.
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/xor6sbf3301k3og/AAACOahBQPVac9_k3iLyVkSBa?dl=0
 
About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

panda.org/arctic

Posted: January 26, 2017, 12:00 am
Polar bear © seafarer / Shutterstock.comToday, NASA and the U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared 2016 as the hottest year on record globally.
 
Commenting on this, WWF's global Climate & Energy Practice leader Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said:
 
"2016 has been announced as the hottest year ever. If there was ever a time for urgent action on climate change, it is now. Even as global momentum for addressing this crisis is increasing, nature persistently reminds us that we have to pick up the pace. 
 
"Across the world, human-caused climate change is already destabilising food production, increasing water scarcity and accelerating instability among our most vulnerable communities. From the accelerating pace of glacial melt in both the Arctic and Antarctic to devastating cyclones, droughts and fires, nature is sounding the alarm. The drivers of last year's severe weather events show no sign of slowing and will continue to impact conditions into 2017.
 
"It is time to leverage the Paris Agreement and to increase ambition for clean energy in the coming years. We need to harness actions from the private sector, civil society and national and local governments to make our collective response stronger and more ambitious. We need to be in this for the long-haul so long term plans and strategies are essential for transitioning to the economy of the future – one powered by clean, renewable sources."

Contact:
 
Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwf.org.za  / +27 72 393 0027
 

How many more #climate records have to be broken before we take action? 2016 #HottestYearEver: https://t.co/PK9hsrPTTY pic.twitter.com/0E2mNZdriU

— WWF EU (@WWFEU) 18 January 2017
Posted: January 18, 2017, 12:00 am
GLAND, Switzerland (18 January, 2017) – Today, NASA and the U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared 2016 as the hottest year on record globally.
 
Commenting on this, WWF's global Climate & Energy Practice leader Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said:
 
"2016 has been announced as the hottest year ever. If there was ever a time for urgent action on climate change, it is now. Even as global momentum for addressing this crisis is increasing, nature persistently reminds us that we have to pick up the pace. 
 
"Across the world, human-caused climate change is already destabilising food production, increasing water scarcity and accelerating instability among our most vulnerable communities. From the accelerating pace of glacial melt in both the Arctic and Antarctic to devastating cyclones, droughts and fires, nature is sounding the alarm. The drivers of last year's severe weather events show no sign of slowing and will continue to impact conditions into 2017.
 
"It is time to leverage the Paris Agreement and to increase ambition for clean energy in the coming years. We need to harness actions from the private sector, civil society and national and local governments to make our collective response stronger and more ambitious. We need to be in this for the long-haul so long term plans and strategies are essential for transitioning to the economy of the future – one powered by clean, renewable sources."
 
For further information,  contact:
Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwf.org.za  / +27 72 393 0027
Posted: January 18, 2017, 12:00 am
Coal fired power plant © © Andrew Kerr / WWFGermany would need to start phasing out coal by 2019 and completely eliminate the fuel from its energy system by the end of 2035 at the latest if it wants to reach its Paris climate commitments, reveals a study published today by WWF Germany. Despite Germany's commitment to renewable energy, the country is still one of Europe's worst polluters: six of the EU's most polluting coal-fired power plants are situated in Germany.

A new study called "Germany's Electric Future" published today by WWF Germany in cooperation with Prognos AG and Öko-Institut shows how Germany can make an adequate contribution to the global fight against climate change without experiencing energy shortages.

"Germany has a coal problem, and we can no longer put off addressing it. Our calculations clearly demonstrate that Germany's very old coal power plants need to be decommissioned as quickly as possible," says Christoph Heinrich, Director of the Conservation Department at WWF Germany. "The Paris agreement was unanimously ratified in the German parliament. This constitutes a clear mandate to start phasing out coal by 2019 at the latest. Any further delay would indicate that commitments made in line with the Paris agreement are not being taken seriously."

The study uses an innovative approach: instead of looking at emissions reduction goals over a certain period of time, analyses are based on the so-called CO2-budget. This budget takes the Paris climate agreement as its benchmark1.  All measures concerning climate protection and energy policies compatible with the 2°C limit, the WWF study advocates, must be aligned with Germany's remaining CO2-budget. The WWF model outlines the path for a coal phase-out that contributes a fair share to the global fight against climate change and that is economically feasible.

However, the phase-out of coal in Germany, the report adds, must be accompanied by a massive expansion of renewable energies. Expanding renewables ambitiously is a vital part of the Energiewende.  

"Germany should lead the EU away from coal and towards 100% renewables. Phasing out coal power, alongside dedicated support for mining regions affected by this transition, will relieve EU countries of massive health and social costs and help avoid the worst impacts of climate change," says Imke Lübbeke, Head of Unit EU Climate and Energy Policy.

Notes to the editors:

1 In Paris, countries agreed to limit global warming to well under 2°C. In order to reach that goal, only a limited amount of CO2 can still be emitted, globally it is 890 gigatons. Consequently, the German power sector, responsible for about 40 percent of all German greenhouse gas emissions, only has four gigatons of CO2 emissions left. However, if Germany continues using coal for its electricity generation without introducing any limits, its CO2 emissions would end up being much higher.

Contact
Audrey Gueudet, Senior Communications and Media Officer, Climate & Energy, WWF European Policy Office, +32 494 032 027, agueudet@wwf.eu
Lea Sibbel, press officer at WWF Germany, Tel.: +49 30-311 777 467, Lea.Sibbel@wwf.de  
Posted: January 17, 2017, 12:00 am
2017 - the year of the long-term climate plan? © Jay HuangA new year is always a chance to reflect on what has gone past, and what is to come.

The US elections may have cast a shadow over the end of 2016 - at least in climate activists' eyes - and continued rising temperatures and global warming-related extreme weather events are causing ever more havoc far and wide. However last year also brought much good news for the planet, from the entry into force of the Paris Agreement and a Marrakech summit which took steps towards assuring its implementation, to renewable energy going from strength to strength as costs fell further than ever.

In terms of the focus of the MaxiMiseR project, long-term climate plans, 2017 has started strongly, with France submitting its 2050 strategy to the UN, the fifth country to do so after Canada, Germany, Mexico and the US at the end of last year. Hopefully this is a signal of increasing momentum and greater forward-thinking on climate internationally, and we will see more of such plans in the coming weeks and months.

However, while having a long-term plan may tick a box, it will not make much difference to tackling climate change unless that plan is good. For MaxiMiseR, a good long-term plan is ambitious, credible and enforceable. A good long-term plan is developed transparently and in a way that includes civil society.

So, how good are EU countries' low-carbon development strategies? This is what the MaxiMiseR project is currently assessing. It is analysing all of the plans submitted so far, and it will give each one a score and make recommendations on how the plan can be improved.

We will publish our final report and overview in the new few weeks - follow MaxiMiseREU to stay up-to-date, and subscribe to our newsletter!
Posted: January 4, 2017, 12:00 am
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) curious young male on the newly frozen pack ice, Beaufort Sea, off the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, North Slope, Alaska © © naturepl.com / Steven Kazlowski / WWFIn March 2016 US President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau announced "...a new partnership to embrace the opportunities and to confront the challenges in the changing Arctic, with Indigenous and Northern partnerships, and responsible, science-based leadership." Today, announcements by both governments have delivered on promises made in their joint statement, by taking important actions on conservation, sustainable development, and regulation of industrial activities in the Arctic.

The two leaders have taken action on oil drilling, designating the vast majority of U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as indefinitely off limits to offshore oil and gas leasing, and Arctic Canadian waters as indefinitely off limits to future offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing, to be reviewed every five years.
They have also taken action on shipping, launching processes to identify sustainable shipping lanes throughout their connected Arctic waters, and both countries commit to taking actions aimed at using down use of polluting heavy fuel oils in Arctic waters.

They have also committed to several measures aimed at improving the sustainability of Arctic communities, and Canada is also committing to "explore how to support and protect the future of the Arctic Ocean's "last ice area" where summer ice remains each year."

""Today the governments of Canada and the United States have taken significant steps toward the protection of the Arctic's unique ecosystems. As climate change warms the planet and sea ice diminishes, the Last Ice Area will become a refuge for the Arctic's ice-dependent wildlife, including polar bears, narwhal, seals, walrus, and beluga and bowhead whales. WWF first identified the need to create an Arctic Ice protected area in 2008 and has been working toward protecting this Last Ice Area ever since. We applaud the government's commitment to work with Inuit to keep this refuge alive for wildlife and communities that depend on them, "said WWF Canada President and CEO David Miller.

WWF US President and CEO Carter Roberts said "This is a remarkable moment of US-Canadian leadership in protecting our shared resources. After years of engagement in the Arctic, President Obama has secured more than 500,000 square kilometres of ocean in one of the most magnificent regions on Earth – home to the culture and tradition of our indigenous communities, as well as walrus, whales, and seascapes unique in all the world. We applaud this bold decision. It underscores our nation's inevitable transition to cleaner energy and signals that some places are just too important not to protect. And with our neighbors, will inspire the world to do likewise.  This action continues a long tradition, starting with Lincoln and Roosevelt, of presidents conserving the best parts of America. This is a big deal – a defining part of our country that's just as important as Yosemite and Yellowstone."

Taken together, the announcements advance sustainable development and regulate industrial activity in a significant portion of the Arctic. This will enable Arctic wildlife and communities in the areas concerned to better adapt to an environment experiencing rapid climate-driven change.

For further information, please contact: 
  • (Canada) Megan Nesseth, communications specialist, mnesseth@wwfcanada.org, +1 416-904-2482
  • (US) Chris Conner christopher.conner@wwfus.org  +1 202-495-4786

Web: www.panda.org/arctic

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
Posted: December 20, 2016, 12:00 am
A recent WWF's report entitled With their vote today on the reform of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme for the period 2021-2030, the members of the the European Parliament's Environment Committee decided on measures that have the potential to deliver a stronger carbon price signal and more opportunities for clean investments in Europe.
 
In particular, WWF welcomes steps towards tackling the oversupply of emission allowances, which would lead to a total surplus of more than 2 billion allowances by 2020. This was partially achieved by MEPs agreeing to some improvements to the European Commission's proposal, such as the cancellation of 800 million allowances in 2021, and a temporary strengthening of the ETS Market Stability Reserve. Another positive outcome is that the number of available emission allowances will decrease by 2.4% every year instead of 2.2% as proposed by the Commission.
 
In reaction to the vote, Sam Van den plas, climate policy officer at WWF European Policy Office said: "Meaningful reforms to fix the EU ETS have been long overdue, and we are finally on the right track. Measures which limit the available emission allowances permanently should be strengthened, while the exemptions for some sectors receiving  free pollution permits should be phased out."
 
WWF commends MEPs for voting to make better use of the EU ETS auctioning revenues1, by mandating Member States to dedicate all revenues to further climate action. They also suggest to establish a European Just Transition Fund to support regions with a high share of workers in carbon-dependent sectors.
 
Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office, concluded: "Using the ETS auctioning revenues to deliver more clean investments in Europe is the right way forward. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement ahead of the EP plenary vote and in the negotiations with Member States, especially concerning the EU's international climate finance commitments. Policymakers need to re-focus on the big picture now, and shift the debate away from the vested interests of a handful of large polluting sectors to using the ETS to deliver on the Paris climate commitments."
 
Note to the editors:
 
1. According to a WWF report 'Smart Cash for the Climate' launched on 13 December, EU countries could receive around €120 billion more for climate action through a strengthened Emissions Trading System (ETS) reform. Under the European Commission's proposal, polluting industries would still get free emissions allowances. But moving to full auctioning would generate much greater revenues for Member States, who should then be required to spend 100% of these revenues on renewables, energy efficiency and climate finance.

Contacts

Audrey Gueudet
Senior Communications and Media Officer
Climate & Energy
WWF European Policy Office
agueudet@wwf.eu
+32 494 032 027
 
Posted: December 15, 2016, 12:00 am
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