Climate change and wind energy

Wind energy today plays a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and can be rapidly deployed in the future. Each wind-produced kilowatt hour (kWh) avoids a kWh created by power stations burning coal, gas and oil - on average 696 gCO2/kWh.

  • In 2011, wind power in the EU avoided the emission of 140 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2, equivalent to taking 71 million vehicles off the road.
  • In 2020, the 213 GW of installed wind power as planned in Member States' National Renewable Energy Action Plans could avoid the emission of 316 Mt of CO2. This is equivalent to around three quarters of today's EU car fleet's emissions and 28% of the EU's greenhouse gas reduction effort for 2020 (20% reduction).

As other countries shy away from UNFCCC commitments, the EU should profit from its technological leadership in wind and renewables. A commitment to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 compared to 1990 would be a clear signal for investors in the power sector and help them maintain their leadership through innovation.

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The Emission Trading System: a good idea in dire need of regulatory intervention

Fix the ETS Infographic

The EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) was supposed to put a cost on emitting CO2. It was a clear message to investors that the cost of climate change, currently borne by society, would be increasingly shifted towards the polluter. But both the first phase of the ETS (2005-2007), and the second (2008-2012) did not work out as planned, so that it remains doubtful whether any real emission reductions were delivered at all.

The economic crisis reduced industrial and electrical output and GHG emissions consequently went down. Heavy industry operators banked or sold for profit over 25% of the carbon permits they received for free. This created a cheap business-as-usual solution for power companies who bought cheap allowances instead of moving towards a renewable, non-GHG emitting sector. Today, the system is oversupplied with credits and regulatory intervention is needed to put it back in working order.

The recent proposal from the Commission (July 2012) offers a temporary solution to bolster the price of carbon. If ambitious enough, it could re-establish incentives to invest in emissions reductions and increase auctioning revenue for Member States – a win-win situation and welcome first step. But solving the situation durably will require additional action.

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Related links - UNFCCC