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EWEA's Opinion

EWEA's opinion

18.08.2009

Using wind power to help mitigate climate change

From Germany to China to South Korea, the complex and potentially catastrophic global warming conundrum led the news last week while negotiations prior to the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen continued to intensify.

As negotiators met in Bonn to try and reach a new and strengthened post-Kyoto treaty, Ends Europe reported on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which revealed that greenhouse gas emission reductions pledged by rich countries for 2020 amount to between 15% and 21% below 1990 levels.

While there are still about 100 days left until the Copenhagen conference begins, those figures are much lower than targets set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which notes that wealthy nations must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels in 12 years in order to avoid the worst ravages associated with global warming.

At the beginning of the Bonn meeting, the UN’s senior climate change representative said he was worried that the negotiating process was not moving fast enough.

Yvo de Boer reportedly warned that many of the key issues such as emissions targets and financing for clean technologies in the developing world remain deadlocked. “You’re looking at hugely divergent interests, very little time remaining, a complicated document on the table and still a lot of progress to be made on some very important issues,” he told the BBC.

In a similar vein, Business Green reported former UK deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who was involved in the negotiation of the original Kyoto deal, warned that the Copenhagen talks would collapse unless rich nations show greater support for targets based on per capita emissions.

“The West is going to come up with big money on how to finance alternative energy in the developing countries, including clean coal,” Prescott told the Guardian.

“China and India are going to want to know how many billions the rich countries are going to put aside to help them make their carbon contributions. That will be one of the big tests at Copenhagen. The fact is that the West has poisoned the world and left continents such as Africa in poverty. The West will have up to stump up the cash for clean technology.”

Meanwhile, at an environmental forum in South Korea, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said climate change is the fundamental threat to humankind.

“If we fail to act, climate change will intensify droughts, floods and other natural disasters,” Ki-moon said. “Water shortages will affect hundreds of millions of people. Malnutrition will engulf large parts of the developing world. Tensions will worsen. Social unrest – even violence – could follow.

“The damage to national economies will be enormous. The human suffering will be incalculable. We have the power to change course. But we must do it now.”

As if on cue, the Chinese government announced it would make “controlling greenhouse gas emissions” an important part of its development plans. Reuters noted that a Beijing cabinet meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao said global warming threatened China’s environmental and economic health.

Warning of worsening droughts, floods and melting glaciers, Reuters said the meeting stressed the urgency of tackling climate change and called for domestic objectives to control greenhouse emissions, though it made no mention of emissions cuts.

Considered to be the world’s top annual emitter of greenhouse gases, Beijing has long argued that development comes first when there are still tens of millions living in poverty.

But China’s leaders are increasingly worried about the risks rising temperatures pose to a densely-populated country with limited natural resources, according to Reuters. They also want to exploit a boom in clean technology.

In addition to this whirlwind of climate change news, the BBC reported a study of satellite measurements of the massive Pine Island glacier in Antarctica revealed it is melting four times faster than it was a decade ago.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) believes that the number of climate change stories will continue to dramatically increase as the Copenhagen conference nears. After all, science has shown the fate of humankind is at stake.

As a minimal first step, EWEA encourages nations to reach an agreement on a new pact to limit and reduce greenhouse gases. Once a global treaty is signed, countries can further exploit wind power – a sustainable, affordable, local and non-polluting energy – to help mitigate the horrifying calamity caused by 150 years of burning fossil fuels.

For more on glaciers melting at an alarming rate, please see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8200680.stm

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