50 Stories: Sustainable energy for the world

On April 29, 2011, WWF celebrated 50 years of environmental conservation. Join us as we highlight 50 stories in 50 days, looking back at what we’ve achieved together and looking forward to another 50 years.
Turn off the light when you leave the room. Take the bus instead of the car. Buy an energy-efficient washing machine.
Simple steps we can all take when we use electricity.
Build new green homes and refit existing ones. Generate renewable energy on a massive scale. Overhaul our transport system.
Rather more complex. But vital if we want to fend off catastrophic climate change.

Wind turbine, Spain (c) Carlos G. Vallecillo/WWF-Canon
What’s at stake?
We all need to start using less and better energy – and soon.
Generating energy is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change.
Humanity’s use of fossil fuels must start going down within the next five years to stop temperatures rising above the point of no return.
But climate change isn’t the only reason we need to change our energy habits. Our oil reserves won’t last for ever. Increasingly, energy companies are looking to remote places like the Arctic and tropical rainforests for untapped resources. They’re also turning to highly polluting unconventional fossil fuels, like tar sand. The environmental consequences will be severe – and we can expect more disastrous oil spills too.
A sustainable energy future is the only future.
The story so far
Energy-efficient appliances often use half the energy of standard products. Just think how much energy we could save if we all switched to them.
But individual choices alone aren’t enough. Governments and businesses need to make major changes if we’re to use energy more efficiently, and we’ve campaigned to make that happen.
We’re also working with some of the world’s leading companies to encourage them to reduce their energy consumption and use renewable energy.
Did you know?
“Passive houses” need almost no energy for heating or cooling, thanks to airtight construction, insulation and heat pumps. Around 25,000 have been built so far in Europe.
Facts and stats

  • 37% – proportion of CO2 emissions caused by generating energy.
  • 13% – average proportion of electricity used in homes by leaving appliances like TVs and computers on standby
  • 1.4 billion – people who have no access to reliable electricity
  • 2.7 billion – people who rely on traditional fuels like wood and charcoal for cooking and heating
  • 95% – how much of our energy we can generate from renewable sources by 2050, based on existing technology, according to analysis we’ve commissioned

What next?
The solution to preventing catastrophic climate change is to use energy more efficiently, and generate it from sustainable, renewable sources.
In 2011 we released The Energy Report: 100% Renewable Energy by 2050. The most ambitious analysis of the world’s energy needs yet attempted, it shows that our vision of a fully renewable energy supply for everyone is practically possible. We already have the technology to do it, and it will actually save the world money in the long run.
But governments, industry and investors will have to make some brave decisions to support energy efficiency, renewable energy and better electricity grids. All of us are going to need to make some changes to our lifestyle – from eating less meat to thinking about how we travel.
It isn’t going to be easy. But from influencing governments to working with manufacturers in China, we’re moving the debate forward and offering practical solutions.
What you can do
Read our 10 recommendations for how we can create a renewable energy future.
For more tips on being energy efficient, visit our Living Planet Community.
Be part of the celebration!