Wind energy must be key climate change solution «

Wind energy must be key climate change solution

Climate change is now generally accepted to be the greatest environmental threat facing the world, and keeping our planet’s temperature at sustainable levels has become one of the major concerns of policy makers. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that average temperatures around the world will increase by up to 5.8°C over the coming century. This is predicted to result in a wide range of climate shifts, including melting ice caps, flooding of low-lying land, storms, droughts and violent changes in weather patterns.

One of the main messages from the Nobel Prize winning IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report released in 2007 was that in order to avoid the worst ravages of climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak and begin to decline before 2020.

While the power sector is far from being the only culprit when it comes to climate change, it is the largest single source of emissions, accounting for about 40% of CO2 emissions, and about 25% of overall emissions. The options for making major emissions reductions in the power sector between now and 2020 are basically three: energy efficiency and conservation; fuel switching from coal to gas; and renewable energy, primarily wind power.

Wind power does not emit any climate change inducing carbon dioxide nor other air pollutants which are polluting the major cities of the world and costing billions in additional health costs and infrastructure damage. Within three to six months of operation, a wind turbine has offset all emissions caused by its construction, to run virtually carbon free for the remainder of its 20 year life. Further, in an increasingly carbon-constrained world, wind power is risk-free insurance against the long term downside of carbon intense investments.

Given the crucial timeframe up to 2020 during which global emission must start to decline, the speed of deployment of wind farms is of key importance in combating climate change. Building a conventional power plant can take 10 or 12 years or more, and until it is completed, no power is being generated. Wind power deployment is measured in months, and a half completed wind farm is just a smaller power plant, starting to generate power and income as soon as the first turbines are connected to the grid.

The global wind industry has set itself a target of saving 1.5 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2020, which would amount to a total of 10 billion tons saved in this period. See Global Wind 2008 Outlook for GWEC’s scenarios of wind energy development up to 2050.

While developments in 2008 show that the sector is well on track to meeting this target, a strong global signal from governments is needed to show that they are serious about moving away from fossil fuels and protecting the climate.
As positive outcome to the climate negotiations throughout this year, resulting in a new global agreement in Copenhagen in December, is of fundamental importance and will send the kind of signal that the industry, investors and the finance sector need for wind power to reach its full potential.

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