Into the gap between rhetoric and action

While the broad political statements to come out of the latest UN conference on climate change failed to move the renewables agenda forward, discussions on how to implement Kyoto's flexible mechanisms did. The European Wind Energy Association returned from Delhi having forged significant new links in the global climate change arena, one of them with the World Bank

A distinct aura of déjà vu accompanies last month's Delhi Declaration on Climate Change. Its words on increasing the use of renewable energy and the need for early ratification of the Kyoto Protocol are virtually identical to those contained in the final document to come out of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September. Delhi's Eighth Conference of Parties (COP-8) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) achieved a small step forward, however -- and for the wind power industry there is some encouraging news.

"In practical terms COP-8 was far more important to the wind industry than the World Summit on Sustainable Development," says Corin Millais, who heads the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). "It was less about political rhetoric and grand statements and more about making things happen."

As the main forum for debate on the mechanisms for implementing the Kyoto Protocol (now widely expected to come into force early next year), the wind industry has a vested interest in the on-going negotiations at the COP meetings. "The protocol is important to the industry. It is more specific on renewable energy deployment and discusses more concrete mechanisms for implementation," says Millais. "However, there is little happening on the ground for the wind industry at present. There is a disconnection between the big policy issues and wind development and we need to close the gap."

Failures of policy

At first sight it appears not much has changed. But COP-8 was never going to be a show stopper after COP-7, where agreement was finally reached to implement the protocol. Instead it was the meeting where detailed discussion about how to implement the protocol would begin. With delegates from 170 countries all trying to protect their own interests, getting agreement on all issues in one go was never likely to happen. Most disappointing was the failure to broaden commitments beyond the protocol's first commitment period (2008-2012) of the protocol as the EU and others had sought. Neither does the protocol set emission levels for developing countries, most of which fiercely opposed the EU proposal.

Developing countries also fought hard against proposals to mitigate global warming, which would have been a further incentive for additional wind power development. Instead they preferred to focus on measures to adapt to the existing effects of climate change rather than looking at ways to prevent an increase in climate change in the period beyond 2012.

The Indian government, which played host to the meeting, led the opposition against mitigation. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was quick to note India's leading position in wind power production, argued that countries like India produced only a fraction of the total greenhouse gas emissions and could not afford the extra costs of cutting them. "Climate change mitigation will bring additional strain to the already fragile economies of the developing countries and will affect our efforts to achieve higher GDP growth rates to eradicate poverty speedily."

The EU was not happy. "Some progress has been made, but in my opinion, far too little," said Steen Gade, director general of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, who headed the EU delegation at COP-8. "The Declaration is very much about the poor and the poorest countries' development needs." The subject of mitigation has now been tabled for later meetings, but positive progress on some issues was made. The wind industry, says Millais, needs to build on that.

Renewables promotion

The declaration reiterates the importance of carrying out all existing international commitments under the UNFCCC and calls for early ratification of the Kyoto protocol. It also promotes "less polluting energy," which includes both renewable energy and more efficient fossil fuel technologies, and calls for governments to promote technological advances through research and development, to "substantially increase renewable energy resources." The transfer of climate-friendly technologies from developed countries to less developed should also be further promoted. In addition, $410 million in new funding for projects was pledged, including $80 million from the EU.

"Perhaps the most significant outcome of COP-8 was the agreement on the Clean Development Mechanism, which will kick in next year," says Millais. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol that allows an industrialised country to invest in a clean energy project to be set up in place of a less efficient (more polluting) project in a developing country. In return, the industrialised country gets credit for the reduced emissions, which it can use to meet its Kyoto target. The rules for the CDM were agreed in New Delhi and the first projects are now likely to be approved during the first quarter of 2003. Wind power could be a beneficiary, particularly in the long term, but it will have stiff competition.

"The CDM could be an interesting vehicle for wind power but it is still early days to know for sure," Millais explains. "It will be a test as there are cheaper abatement options than a wind farm. It will be one to watch." The CDM could become more lucrative as time goes on, he adds. "Some people in the industry will benefit from the CDM, but I think you would really have to want to do business in developing countries. It's not a liquid market yet and therefore not ready to take the wind power market forward."

Emissions trading

Carbon and emissions trading were also hot topics for discussion in New Delhi, although no substantial conclusions were reached. The EU, however, will be putting an emission trading mechanism in place soon. "Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol is our number one priority. Accordingly we will place an emission trading scheme before the European Council in December to fine tune the technical details," said Marianne Wenning of the EU environment directorate. "There is at least now a view that new policy parameters for valuing carbon have to be seriously considered," adds Millais. "We have to be part of that discussion to ensure wind comes in at a favourable rate. We need a firmer policy on these issues."

In New Delhi, Millais was hard at work lobbying on the ground, promoting Wind Force 12 (EWEA's joint report with Greenpeace outlining how wind can provide 12% of world electricity by 2020) and securing new contacts for the industry. "To raise the profile of wind you have to make new contacts for the industry and to do that you have to be there," he says. "We need to form new dialogues and in New Delhi we did. We will also be at Cop-9 in Italy next year and there we will want to be even more proactive."

One such new dialogue is with the World Bank. In the past many wind developers have found it far too time consuming to pursue soft financing available from the World Bank for projects in developing countries. The bank has a firm commitment to funding more sustainable projects, including those deploying renewable energy technologies, as evident with its Prototype Carbon Fund. But the process of actually securing the funding and getting projects off the starting block has tended to be a long, bureaucratic one that has put many wind developers off. Millais says his talks in New Delhi indicate that the bank wants to rectify the situation to ensure more wind projects are funded in future.

"We now have a dialogue with the World Bank, and its representatives at COP-8 expressed a keen interest in wind development. They need to know more though about what it takes to build and develop a wind farm and they want to understand the problems developers face," Millais says. "We need to take this initial dialogue forward and EWEA can create an effective forum to bring companies, developers and the World Bank together in that aim."

More effective

The wind industry needs to be more effective in lobbying, he continues. "The next step is to engage stakeholders in discussion to deliver Windforce 12," he says. "We still need to get more projects in the ground." With COP-9 taking place in Italy in December 2003 Millais believes EWEA can make more impact in driving home the message that "wind power is key to meeting emission reduction targets."

He says: "Global problems need global solutions, and wind power has the industrial capacity to produce clean energy on a scale that would make a significant impact in slowing climate change, but this is not being reflected in the political declarations. With COP-9 taking place on home turf, EWEA will be in pole position to drive that message home." He hopes to be able to arrange for turbines to be installed at the venue for COP-9 so the wind industry has a proactive, visible presence. "There's everything to play for," he says.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles
and free email bulletins.

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in