Milan, Italy – Unless governments take urgent action to prevent global warming, billions of people worldwide may face severe water shortages as a result of the alarming melting rate of glaciers, warned WWF today ahead of the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC). A new WWF paper on climate change and global glacier decline shows that increasing global average temperatures in the coming century will cause continued widespread melting of glaciers, which contain 70 per cent of the world's freshwater reserves. An overall rise of temperature of 4 degrees Celsius before the end of the century would eliminate almost all of them. The melting of glaciers will lead to water shortages for billions of people, as well as sea level rises threatening and destroying coastal communities and habitats worldwide. According to the conservation organization, the regions most at risk from melting glaciers due to climate change are: • Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, where glaciers supply water all year round, and are often the sole source of water for major cities during dry seasons • the Himalayas, where the danger of catastrophic flooding is severe and glacier-fed rivers supply water to one third of the world's population • small island nations such as Tuvalu, where sea level rise is submerging lowlands and saltwater is invading vital drinking water supplies. "These glaciers are extremely important because they respond rapidly to climate change and their loss directly affects human populations and ecosystems," said Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF’s Climate Change Programme. "WWF expects developed country ministers at the upcoming COP9 meeting to clearly demonstrate what their countries are doing now to combat climate change and commit to deep reductions in the future to prevent such catastrophes." WWF is urging the governments of more than 180 countries attending the UNFCCC COP9 from 1–12 December 2003 in Milan to speed up in taking action to combat climate change. WWF also calls on all countries to ensure that Russia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol as soon as possible. In the negotiations, WWF is placing top priority on the conclusion of strong rules for sinks — forests and land-use activities that absorb carbon from the atmosphere — in the Clean Development Mechanism at COP9. In addition, WWF is encouraging ministers from industrialized countries to describe how their governments are implementing measures to meet Kyoto targets and commit to deeper emission cuts in the near future. "Glacial meltdown is a clear signal that we must act now to fight global warming and stop the melting,” said Jennifer Morgan. "COP9 must make it clear to the world that a multi-lateral approach to climate change is the only way forward, that Kyoto will soon enter into force and that international cooperation is well on track to tackle climate change." For further information: Martin Hiller Communications Manager, WWF Climate Change Programme Tel.: + 41 79 3472256 E-mail: MHiller@wwfint.org Mitzi Borromeo Press Officer, WWF International Tel.: +41 79 4773553 E-mail: MBorromeo@wwfint.org Sara Bragonzi Press officer, WWF-Italy, Tel.: +39 329 8315718 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org NOTE: • The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a tool to finance projects that reduce CO2 emissions in developing countries.