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Wind in Europe can contribute towards climate goals, says industry

Wind turbines in Europe could displace the annual emission of 333 megatonne of CO2 by 2020, says the European Wind Energy Association.

In 2012, wind power in the EU could avoid the emission of 146 Mt of CO2, equivalent to 32% of the EU’s Kyoto reduction target, EWEA told EU environment ministers who met recently to finalise the EU’s position for the Copenhagen climate change conference next month. Wind energy could avoid 333 Mt per year by 2020, equivalent to 29% of the continent’s current GHG reduction target of 20% by that time.

“The EU should go into Copenhagen confident that GHG emissions can be slashed rapidly and that its own targets can be met and exceeded,” says Christian Kjaer of EWEA. “The growing pessimism on global action against climate change needs to be nipped in the bud.”

“The targets can be achieved with currently-available renewable energy technology and an increase in Europe’s energy efficiency,” he adds. “The wind energy industry is already delivering massive GHG emission reductions.”

“Europe is still far ahead of a rather unambitious group of developed countries when it comes to commitments,” he explains. “However, if it takes the scientific evidence seriously, the EU should raise its ambition and aim for a 30% domestic carbon reduction target, with offsetting mechanisms like the Clean Development Mechanism adding a further 10%.”

Last year, wind turbines in the EU avoided the emission of 91 Mt of CO2 and the briefing explained that wind is an abundant energy resource and a real alternative to emission-producing fossil fuels. Last year in the EU, every kWh of electricity produced by wind displaced 666 grammes of CO2.

Wind has the lowest lifecycle emissions of all power plants, and a wind turbine reimburses the energy and CO2 it needs to build within 6 months, adds EWEA. Wind power has no NOx emissions (linked with ground level ozone and health impacts) and no other air pollutants like sulphur dioxide (acid rain) or particles.

“Without a global solution, temperatures will rise above 2°C and climate change will overwhelm human civilisation,” the group states. “By 2020, we need a target consistent with the range of 25%-40% identified by the IPCC to give us a 50% chance of avoiding the 2°C temperature rise. By 2050, anything below an 80%-90% reduction in GHG emissions falls short of recent scientific evidence.”

“The more advanced developing countries must avoid the use of fossil fuels and move rapidly to a renewable energy economy, with ambitious 2050 targets,” it adds. “Renewable energy projects like wind power lock in truly clean development; revised additionality rules should make it easier for wind projects to be eligible for CDM under a future agreement.”

The avoidance of 91 Mt per year also avoided CO2 costs of €2.3 billion and fuel costs of €6bn, the group claims, from its 137 TWh of green power output from wind turbines that met 4% of total EU electricity demand.

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