Wind and other renewable energies must be given immediate priority over fossil fuels and nuclear power if the EU is serious about its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050, says a new report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). Without such action the EU will only manage a 40% cut in emissions by 2050, warns the NGO.
“The spiralling economic, social and environmental cost of our current energy system, and the looming threat of climate change disaster, flip the burden of proof: anything other than sustainable renewables used efficiently should now have to justify their existence, not the other way around as has historically been the case,” says Jason Anderson, head of climate and energy at WWF’s European Policy Office.
Cutting energy related emissions the right way, published 27 November, assesses the five decarbonisation scenarios presented in the European Commission’s energy roadmap 2050. It concludes that the roadmap only considers a relatively narrow range of decarbonisation options, all with roughly similar levels of renewable energy by 2030 and a “significant residual fossil fuel liability through to 2050”.
Each roadmap scenario can be considered as a “variation on a central theme” and the document therefore “overlooks the rewards that could be reaped from the more ambitious options of 95% emissions reductions and a scenario that combines high renewable energy generation and high energy savings,” says the report.
The WWF believes that that a 100% renewable energy future is possible by the middle of this century, insisting that “it saves money, and is the most certain way to guarantee the transformation of our energy systems in order to avoid the very worst of climate change”.
The NGO admits that such a transformation would demand significant investments, but claims that “delivering it means we would save globally nearly €4 trillion per year by 2050 through energy efficiency and reduced fuel costs compared to a business-as-usual scenario”.
“Renewable energy represents a group of proven solutions,” says Anderson. “By contrast, any reliance on the divisive and costly nuclear energy or unproven carbon capture and storage is courting failure on the road to 2050 energy decarbonisation in the EU. The 40-year perspective also makes clear that while gas plays an important early role, its use must then diminish strongly over time, if we want to meet our climate goals.”
According to EWEA figures, in 2011 wind power in the EU avoided the emission of 140 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to taking 71 million vehicles off the road. In 2020, the 213 GW of instatlled wind power as planned in Member States’ National Renewable Energy Action Plans, will avoid the emission of 342 million tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent to around three quarters of today’s EU car fleet.
The WWF highlights that unacceptable risks of climate change can only be avoided if developed countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 and by 95% by 2050. Achieving this will improve the probability of staying below 2°C warming threshold, and keeps the WWF’s goal of a 1.5°C maximum within reach, claims the NGO.
This document adds to the flurry of reports published in advance of the annual UN conference on climate change in Doha. Singly, and certainly collectively, they prove that governments have to act now to stop global warming getting further out of control by actively funding green economies that supports wind power and other renewables and leave behind the dirty fossil fuels of yesteryear.