Unilateral cut urged by EWEA to shore up wind

EUROPE: The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has urged the European Union (EU) to agree on an immediate, unilateral 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to help Europe maintain its technological and industrial leadership position in wind and other renewable energies.

EWEA...urging unilateral cut in greenhouse gases
EWEA...urging unilateral cut in greenhouse gases

The industry push came after the European Commission (EC) in late May issued an analysis of costs, benefits and options to increase planned cuts in greenhouse gas emissions beyond the now agreed reduction of 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 emissions levels.

EWEA argues that a tougher emissions cut target would keep Europe at the forefront of the green race and argues that wind energy's contribution makes the target feasible.

EWEA estimates 230GW of wind capacity will be installed in Europe in 2020, avoiding the emission of 333 million tonnes of C02. That is equivalent to around a third of a 20% reduction target and a fifth of a 30% cut.

The EC fell short of recommending that the EU up its emissions reduction target, although it suggested there could be a number of benefits from doing so.

And while the debate about the possible benefits of unilateral EU emissions cuts has been reopened, politicians from national governments remain divided on the subject, with some countries including the UK coming out in favour of a unilateral move and other nations, such as Italy, clearly opposed.

In that environment, the issue is not expected to be seriously discussed by European politicians until this autumn, ahead of United Nations (UN) climate talks in December.

In its analysis, the EC noted that the recession has decreased the cost of reaching the 20% greenhouse gas emissions target to EUR48 billion from an initially estimated EUR70 billion.

The cost of increasing the target to 30% is now seen at EUR81 billion, or just EUR11 billion more than the initial estimate for a 20% reduction.

The EC also acknowledged the positive economic benefits of accelerating a shift to a low-carbon economy. "There is now a widespread consensus that the development of resource-efficient and green technologies will be a major driver of growth," its analysis said.

Sign of the times

Yet it stressed that the poor economic backdrop has made it more difficult for businesses and government to fund investments in a low-carbon economy.

"Whether to increase our reduction target for 2020 from 20% to 30% is a political decision for the EU leaders to take when the timing and the conditions are right," commented Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action.

"Obviously the immediate political priority is to handle the crisis. But as we exit the crisis, the commission has now provided input for a fact-based discussion."

One element of that discussion is likely to be the implications for European competitiveness of a higher emissions cut target. The EC itself noted that the Ernst & Young 2010 Renewable Energy Attractiveness Index now cites the US and China as the best opportunities for renewable energy investments.

The index also shows the US and China as the most attractive countries for wind investment in general although, in Europe, countries like Germany and the UK do fare better when it comes to opportunities for offshore wind.

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